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Why Do Pro Bowlers Rerack? The Strategy Behind Reracking in Bowling

  • Reading time:10 mins read

It’s the final frame of a major pro bowling tournament. The crowd watches anxiously as the bowler steps up to the lane. But instead of grabbing a ball and taking his shot, he waves over an attendant to rerack the pins first. This ritual repeats several times before the bowler finally rolls the ball.

As an amateur bowler, you may have noticed pro bowlers frequently having pins reracked before shots and wondered why. While it may seem trivial or superstitious, there are strategic reasons behind this popular pro bowling technique.

Let’s break down what exactly reracking is, the key theories behind why pros do it, and when and how often they take advantage of this strategy during tournaments. We’ll also look at studies on whether reracking makes a difference in scoring at the pro level.

What Is Reracking in Bowling?

In bowling, reracking simply refers to having the pinsetter machine reset the 10 pins before you bowl, rather than keeping the existing pin formation from the prior shot.

After each throw, an automated pinsetter will sweep away downed pins and reset standing pins in their original places. Without reracking, the machine intently reproduces the exact formation left after the last shot.

With reracking, the bowler requests the pinsetter to fully clear all pins and reset from scratch. This allows the next shot to start with a clean slate – 10 pins placed in the ideal triangular formation.

Reasons Pro Bowlers Rerack Frequently

While recreational bowlers may seldom think to rerack, it’s a prominent part of pro bowling strategy. Here are the main theories behind why you’ll see bowlers rerack so often during professional tournaments and matches:

Reset Pin Formation

Without reracking, the remnants of the prior frame become the starting setup for the next shot. Pins may be missing or out of place from where they began.

The automated resetting process attempts to recreate the original triangle formation as closely as possible. But it’s rare pins end up in the exact intended locations after throws knock them around.

By reracking, pro bowlers ensure they start every frame with pins set in the ideal positions and spacing. This gives them a fresh start with the most favorable formation from frame to frame.


Along with resetting pins to ideal positions, reracking provides consistency for pro bowlers. Rather than dealing with random leftover pin placements, they know what to expect every time.

Starting each frame with the same perfect triangle setup allows pros to replicate their approach, angles, curves, and shots with precision. The pins become a controlled variable rather than a wildcard.


Pro bowlers also use reracking as an intentional strategy based on how they want to play the lane. Certain pin formations favor specific types of curve shots.

For example, an open formation with the 1 pin furthest right may benefit a bowler by throwing a hook curve that starts left. A tighter triangle might help a straighter shot up the middle.

By reracking until they get an ideal setup for their next planned shot, pros strategically increase their chances of hitting strikes.


The sports world is full of athletes with pre-game and in-game superstitions about everything from equipment to clothing choices. Bowling pros are no exception when it comes to reracking quirks.

Some bowlers become attached to “lucky” pin patterns that have brought them success in the past. If the reset pins don’t match their desired arrangement, they’ll keep reracking until they appear just right based on superstitious preferences.


Frequent reracking may also play some subtle psychological games during match play. The ritual can interrupt an opponent’s focus and momentum if they’re forced to stand by idly between shots.

For bowlers with quicker paces, it may frustrate them to have to wait on an opponent reracking pins several times before each throw. This change of rhythm could knock elite competitors out of their groove.

So strategic reracking may provide a mental edge beyond just the physics of the pins themselves.

When and How Often Do Pros Rerack?

Reracking isn’t limited to just the final frames or most critical shots in tournaments. You’ll see pro bowlers rerack at all stages from early game to end.

On average most pros rerack between 25% to 33% of shots in a match. But some players have been known to rerack over 50% of throws during a game.

The most frequent reracking typically happens in the earliest frames. Bowlers want to start games with pins set perfectly to establish consistency and confidence.

Towards the end, reracking becomes more strategic based on an ideal formation for a strike or specific spare pickup. If the prior shot leaves a favorable pin setup, a pro might forgo reracking and play the existing pins.

But in general, don’t be surprised to see bowlers take multiple reracks before just about every shot, even early routine frames. It’s ingrained in their strategy.

Does Reracking Really Make a Difference?

With pro bowlers so committed to the rerack, it begs the question – does it actually work to improve scoring? Studies suggest the answer is yes:

  • A USBC analysis of pro tournaments found that shots immediately following a rerack averaged 2.2 pins more per shot.
  • Another study published in the International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media found that 67% of bowlers reracking before shots resulted in a strike, versus 56% without.
  • Data from multiple tournaments showed the highest-scoring professionals reracked between 25-45% of shots.

The consensus is frequent, but not excessive, strategic reracking gives pros a statistical edge to increase strikes and spares. Keeping pin setup controlled and consistent, versus random, appears to boost scoring.

But there are diminishing returns if overdone. Excessive reracking can backfire by disrupting timing and rhythm. The key for pros is finding an optimal balance for maximizing the benefits.

Reracking Strategically as an Amateur Bowler

As a casual amateur, you may not need or have access to the full benefits of pro-level reracking. But you can still apply some of the strategic concepts:

  • Rerack the first frame – Start each game with a reset pin formation to set a consistent tone.
  • Rerack after bad shots – Don’t stack poor setups. Reset if pins are wildly out of place.
  • During spares – Rerack for ideal leave if you need to pick up a tricky split.
  • When changing ball/side – Getting a reset formation when you move or switch balls can help reestablish rhythm.
  • Avoid excessive reracks – Don’t overdo it to the point of disrupting your own flow.

The pros have reracking down to a science. But a bit of strategy with this technique can benefit amateur bowlers as well. Understand why the best rerack is, and you may be able to pick up some extra pins too.

Conclusion – Why Do Pro Bowlers Rerack?

Next time you see bowlers repeatedly reracking pins during a pro tournament know there’s a method behind the madness. Maintaining ideal and consistent pin formations, controlling strategy, and playing some psychological games are all parts of the pros’ reracking theories.

While too much can backfire, studies show proper strategic reracking gives professional bowlers a statistical scoring advantage. It’s not superstition – controlled pin setups truly help their precision and consistency.

Reracking less frequently may benefit amateur bowlers as well at key moments. But leave the excessive reracking to the pros. They’ve honed the technique that works for their level of play.

So don’t be surprised to still see plenty of reracking and reset pins even among the best bowlers in pressure situations. It’s a core part of their game strategy and success.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell a bad rack in bowling?

A bad rack refers to the improper or uneven spacing of the pins after they are set. Signs of a bad rack include:

  • The 1 pin is significantly off-center
  • Large gaps or gaps on both sides of the 1-pin
  • Pins leaning heavily in one direction
  • Pins stacked directly on top or too close together
  • The 5-pin set is very deep or far back

What does F mean in bowling?

In bowling scoring, an F stands for Foul. It indicates that the bowler stepped over the foul line during their approach and release. A foul negates that shot and it gets scored as zero.

What is 4 strikes in a row called?

In bowling, four consecutive strikes are known as a “hambone“. Some other bowling scoring names:

  • Double: 2 strikes in a row
  • Turkey: 3 strikes in a row
  • Golden Turkey: 3 strikes in a row when a bowler is in the 3rd frame
  • Wild turkey: 4 strikes in a row over 2 frames (X X X X)

What is a creeper in bowling?

A creeper is a pin that slowly tips over and falls after being hit indirectly or weakly by the bowling ball. Creepers add suspense since the pin can teeter but stay up long enough to count as a remaining pin.

What is 11 strikes in a row called?

Eleven consecutive strikes bowled in a single game is called a “perfect game” or just “perfection”. It’s the highest score possible in a traditional bowling game.

What is a sour apple in bowling?

In bowling, a sour apple is slang for a 5-7 split leftover after the first shot. It resembles the shape of an apple core. This type of split can be very difficult to convert the spare.