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How Much is a Strike and Spare in Bowling? A Complete Scoring Guide in 2024

  • Reading time:11 mins read

Bowling is one of the most popular recreational sports in the world, with over 90 million people playing globally. From casual games with friends to competitive league play, bowling attracts players of all ages and skill levels.

One of the great things about bowling is that almost anyone can learn to play and have fun. However, bowling well takes technique, focus, and an understanding of bowling scoring.

Two essential concepts for achieving high scores in bowling are strikes and spares. Knowing how to properly score them and take advantage of their bonus points can dramatically increase your scores and bowling prowess.

This comprehensive guide explains what strikes and spares are in bowling, how they are scored, and why they are so valuable for your overall game.

What is a Strike in Bowling?

A strike is scored when you knock down all 10 pins with your first roll in a frame. This is the best result possible, as strikes result in the most points per frame.

A strike happens when your ball has the perfect speed, rotation, and placement to hit the 1-3 pocket (between the 1 pin and 3 pin) at an angle, driving through the pins to clear the entire deck.

Knocking down that many pins in one throw is no easy feat, but strikers are highly rewarding. When you score a strike, you are awarded 10 points for that frame, plus a bonus of whatever your next two rolls add up to. This gives you the opportunity to score a lot of points even when not throwing in the frame with the strike itself.

For example, if you throw a strike in frame 1, you would get 10 points for the strike. Then when you throw your first two balls in frame 2, you also get to add those points to frame 1.

If you threw 7 pins and 2 pins, your frame 1 would end up scoring 10+7+2=19 points just for that one frame. Strikes are the key to maximizing your points.

What is a Spare in Bowling?

A spare is scored when you knock down all 10 pins using both of your rolls in a frame. This means your first ball leaves some pins standing, and your second ball clears everything for a total of 10 pins hit. A spare is typically harder to pick up than a strike since you have fewer pins to work with on your second throw.

When bowling for a spare, you want to leave an easy setup with your first throw, often picking off corners and avoiding splits. If you leave a split like the 7-10, it is very hard to convert the spare.

When you do pick up a spare by hitting all 10 pins over two rolls, you receive 10 points for that frame plus a bonus of whatever your next roll scores.

So if you get a spare in frame 3, then throw 7 pins on your first ball in frame 4, your frame 3 would total 10 + 7 = 17 points. Not quite as many bonus points as a strike, but still a valuable scoring opportunity.

How Strikes and Spares Affect Your Bowling Score

Strikes and spares are so important in bowling because they allow you to score bonus points in frames. Knocking down all 10 pins boosts your score significantly versus just the normal 1-2 rolls per frame. With no strikes or spares, the maximum points per frame is 20 (two 10-point rolls). But factoring in strikes and spares:

  • Strike: 10 + next two rolls (up to 30 points in a frame)
  • Spare: 10 + next roll (up to 20 points in a frame)

As you can see, strikes and spares dramatically increase your scoring potential for each frame bowled. Multiple strikes bowled in a row are especially valuable, as they compound the bonus points over consecutive frames. Here is a comparison of how points can add up:

No strikes/spares: 10 points per roll = 20 points per frame maximum

1 strike: 10 + 10 + 5 = 25 points in that frame

2 strikes: 30 points + 30 points = 60 points over two frames

3 strikes: 30 + 30 + 30 = 90 points over three frames!

As you can see, those bonus points earned from strikes and spares are extremely valuable. That’s why bowling for strikes and picking up difficult spares are so important to competitive bowlers. It’s a key part of maximizing your bowling scores.

The Math Behind Scoring Strikes and Spares

Now that we’ve covered the basics of strikes and spares, let’s break it down mathematically with some detailed scoring examples:

For a strike in frame 1:

  • Roll 1: You knock down 10 pins and earn 10 points
  • Roll 2: You don’t get a second roll since you struck
  • Frame 1 total = 10 points

Then when bowling frame 2:

  • Roll 1: You knock down 6 pins
  • Roll 2: You knock down 3 more pins
  • Frame 2 total = 6 + 3 = 9 points

But since you struck in frame 1, you now get to add those frame 2 rolls to your frame 1 total:

  • Frame 1 total = 10 points (strike) + 6 points (next roll) + 3 points (roll after that) = 19 total points

For a spare in frame 3:

  • Roll 1: You knock down 5 pins
  • Roll 2: You pick up the spare and knock down the remaining 5 pins
  • Frame 3 total = 5 + 5 = 10 points

When bowling frame 4:

  • Roll 1: You knock down 8 pins
  • Frame 4 total so far = 8 points

Since you spared in frame 3, you get to add your first frame 4 rolls to the frame 3 total:

  • Frame 3 total = 10 points (spare) + 8 points (next roll) = 18 total points

You can see how quickly those bonus points add up! To maximize your bowling scores, you want to string together as many strikes and spares as possible to take advantage of their scoring potential.

Useful Tables and Pin Fall Examples

Here are some useful tables and scoring examples to further illustrate how strikes and spares affect your bowling scores:

Scoring Terminology Cheat Sheet:

  • Strike: All 10 pins on first roll (X on the scoresheet)
  • Spare: All 10 pins over 2 rolls (/)
  • Open frame: No strike or spare

Points Per Roll:

  • Strike: 10 points + next 2 rolls
  • Spare: 10 points + next roll
  • Open frame: 1-2 rolls, only points knocked down

Scoring a Strike:

Roll 1: 10 pins (X)

Roll 2: No second roll

Frame total:

  • 10 points + next 2 rolls

Example Pin Fall:

Frame 1: X (strike – 10 pts) Frame 2: 6 pins, then 3 pins = 9 pts Frame 1 Total = 10 + 6 + 3 = 19 pts

Scoring a Spare:

Roll 1: 5 pins

Roll 2: 5 pins (/)

Frame total:

  • 10 points + next roll

Example Pin Fall:

Frame 3: 5 pins, then 5 pins (spare – 10 pts)
Frame 4: 8 pins Frame 3 Total = 10 + 8 = 18 pts

Bowling Well Consistently

To consistently bowl high scores, you must become proficient at both throwing strikes and picking up spares. Focus on accuracy over power, keeping the ball online to increase your chances of hitting the 1-3 pocket to trigger pins to fly around for a strike.

On spare shots, stay calm and pick your target carefully. Hitting specific pins like the headpin or weak side pins increases your odds. Spare shooting is a skill that requires a lot of practice. Work on accuracy and repeatable form.

Aim to fill every frame with a strike or spare. Avoid open frames whenever possible. The pros average over 90% strikes and spares per game. The more strikes and spares you can convert, the higher your scores will climb. Be patient and stay determined to keep improving.


Mastering strikes and spares is critical for achieving high scores and success in the sport of bowling. A strike offers the most points possible from one throw, while a spare carefully picks off pins left standing. Both provide bonus points through additional rolls that dramatically increase your score.

Remember to stay focused on hitting your target, using proper form and release. With enough practice, your strike and spare percentage will rise.

Learn to take advantage of their high-scoring potential by stringing them together across multiple frames. If you can knock down all 10 pins in every frame, you’ll be bowling near perfection!

Work on your accuracy, adjustments, and pin reaction skills to improve. Don’t get discouraged by split conversions or errant throws. It happens to all bowlers.

Analyze what went wrong and make corrections. With a commitment to focused practice, landing strikes, and sparing will become second nature on the lanes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is a spare and strike worth?

  • A strike is worth 10 points plus the total of your next two rolls. So a strike can be worth up to 30 points in a frame if you roll two more strikes.
  • A spare is worth 10 points plus the total of your next roll. So a spare can be worth up to 20 points in a frame if you roll another strike.

How many is a strike in bowling?

A strike is knocking down all 10 pins on the first roll. So a strike counts as 10 pins.

How much is two strikes in a row?

Two strikes in a row would score 30 points for the first strike frame, and 30 points for the second strike frame, so two strikes in a row are worth 60 total points.

How many points is 3 strikes in a row?

Three consecutive strikes would be worth 30 points for the first frame, 30 for the second, and 30 for the third, totaling 90 points for three strikes in a row.

How much do you get for a strike?

For a single strike, you get 10 points for knocking down the pins, plus the total of your next two rolls added to the strike frame. So up to 30 points for a strike.

Can you bowl 300 with a spare?

No, a 300-game requires getting 12 strikes in a row. A spare can only earn up to 20 points in a frame, so you need all strikes for a perfect 300 game.

How do you count spares in bowling?

Count a spare as 10 points for that frame, plus the points from the next roll get added to the spare frame’s total.

What do 3 strikes equal in bowling?

Three strikes in a row equals 30 points for the first strike, 30 for the second, and 30 for the third. So 3 strikes in a row equals 90 total points.

What is 5 strikes in bowling called?

In bowling, 5 consecutive strikes in a row is called a “five-bagger.” It’s a great accomplishment!