For those unfamiliar with the standard ten-pin bowling scoring system, points scored during a game of bowling may not make much sense. After all, consecutive strikes are scored differently than alternating strikes and spares, and the maximum score of a bowling game shifts wildly based upon the pins knocked down in any given frame.

If you’re unsure what happens when you bowl a strike on your first ball and why ten points aren’t the exact worth of a strike, we’re here to clear things up. We’ll shed some light on scoring strikes bowled consecutively, how a game score is typically rendered and calculated, and the complete skinny on bonus points for strikes in a standard bowling scoring setup.

But first, here’s the answer to the question you’ve likely come here for…

How much is a strike in bowling?

A strike, by itself, is worth ten points. However, that’s just part of the story. When you knock down all ten pins in the first frame through the ninth frame of a bowling game, you’re awarded ten points plus bonus points equivalent to the pins knocked down on your next two balls.

Compare this to when you knock down all ten pins with two shots in a frame and pick up a spare. In that case, you get bonus points equivalent to the value of your next ball and your next ball only.

When all the pins aren’t knocked down in a frame, it’s called an open frame and no bonus points are awarded.

The interesting thing about strikes is that they can be worth anywhere from 10-30 points, based on the results of your latter two balls. For example, four consecutive strikes in the first nine frames will max out the score of the first two strikes at 30, while the values of the next two strikes are contingent on the pin counts in forthcoming throws.

The tenth frame throws a wrench in this a bit. If you roll a strike in the first ball of the tenth, you’re guaranteed at least two balls for bonus points. If you can’t convert a strike on the next shot, you’ll have the opportunity to pick up a spare.

This is unlike the first nine frames, where a strike ends the frame, and bonus points are accrued in the next one to two frames.

As you can see, every single frame is crucial. Multiple strikes in a row mean big things for the total score of a bowler. Three strikes are worth less than eleven consecutive strikes, and the exact score is determined by how many pins a bowler knocks down and when.

Why are strikes worth more than spares in bowling?

Strikes give you bonus points for your next two ball deliveries. Spares give you bonus points for only the first ball after you make your mark. Why is this? Well, it’s pretty simple.

The game of bowling awards bowlers for their efficiency and proficiency throughout an entire game. Because knocking down all ten pins in one shot is much harder than doing so in two shots, it’s generally accepted that strikes should be worth more on the score sheet.

Three consecutive strikes is a much harder task to accomplish than three consecutive spares. Thus, you receive ten points plus a bonus of twenty points for three strikes, compared to a single-ball bonus for each spare.

How many points is 2 strikes in a row?

It depends on the results of the second ball thrown after the first strike. The original strike will be worth at least 20 points, and as much as 30 depending on the pin carry for the final ball. The second strike will be worth at least ten points, and as much as 30 depending on the pin carry of the next two shots.

Therefore, two strikes can be worth as much as 60 points and as little as 30 points depending on how many pins a player knocks down in subsequent throws.

How many points is 3 strikes in a row?

As with two consecutive strikes, the value of 3 strikes in a row is contingent on the results of upcoming throws. This is the same for four strikes, six strikes, seven strikes, or any number of consecutive strikes thrown throughout ten frames.

The most points you can accrue from 3 strikes in a row, also known as a turkey, is 90 points. The fewest points you can accrue is 60. This may be confusing throughout a single game, but score sheets make much more sense if you think about each strike in terms of the two shots thrown after it plus the original ten points.

Why is 3 strikes in a row called a turkey?

The term “turkey” has been used in North American bowling alleys since the 18th and 19th Centuries. Back then, some bowling alley operators gifted players live turkeys during the Thanksgiving season for stringing three strikes together in a row.

Note: a “sizzling turkey” is the same thing as a turkey, but it occurs when you get three strikes in a row in your first three frames.

Frequently Asked Questions about your bowling score sheet

How is a spare scored in bowling?

A spare occurs when ten pins are knocked down in two shots during a frame. You receive ten points for the spare plus bonus points equivalent to the pin carry of the first shot of the next frame.

What happens if I can’t knock down all ten pins in a frame?

When pins are left standing at the end of a frame, it’s considered an open frame. Your next roll has no bonus points attached and the number of pins knocked down is the final score of that frame.

What is a bad bowling score?

It depends on a bowler’s skill level. If you look at score screens across the country, you’ll see plenty of casual bowlers posting scores in the mid-60s to low 80s. For them, a 140 game is a good bowling score. After all, the average bowling score for casual bowlers around the world is 78!

For experienced bowlers, a score of 140 is considered wholly average. A score underneath that is considered bad, depending on lane conditions and their actual scoring average.

In short, there is no definitive number affixed to bad bowling scores. It just depends.

What is a good bowling average?

A good bowling average for an amateur league bowler is around 165-195. 200 averages are considered great.

For professional bowlers, a scoring average of 225-245 is pretty common. Higher averages usually mean more sponsorships and prize money.

What’s the best kind of bowling ball to throw consistent strikes?

It depends on your throwing style. If you catch too much of the head pin with urethane or reactive solid bowling balls, you may want to consider reactive hybrid balls with more reactivity. If you’re a straight ball shooter, polyurethane or something less porous might be better for you. Test out different balls and see what works for you!

What is a perfect game in bowling?

The highest score possible in one game of bowling is 300. A perfect game of bowling consists of twelve consecutive strikes. You’ll see countless articles full of bowling tips for throwing perfect games, but they are exceedingly rare. According to recent statistics, amateur bowlers have a 1-in-11,500 chance of posting a 300 score.

Getting four and five strikes in a row is much more common. But, twelve consecutive strikes is a real and rare accomplishment.

How often do pro bowlers bowl a 300 game?

Pro bowlers are much more likely to throw a perfect game than amateurs. According to recent findings, professional bowlers bowl a 300 game once in every 137 tries.

Who has bowled the most 300 games in history?

Per the records of the United States Bowling Congress, Fero Williams has thrown the most perfect games in modern bowling history. He has 135 perfect games to his credit so far!

What is the highest bowling score possible without a strike?

The highest bowling score possible without a ball called a strike is 190.

Is it possible to bowl a 299?

To bowl a 299, you need to start a game with eleven consecutive strikes and finish your last shot of the tenth frame with a nine.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re bowling in the second frame of your first game or the tenth frame of your last, strikes are always the ultimate goal. Work hard to knock down as many pins as you can in each frame (and the two subsequent frames after a strike) to achieve your maximum possible score. The harder you work and the more you practice, the more strikes you’ll throw and the higher the scores that you’ll achieve.