Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bowling 200: All Your Questions Answered

In this post, I pose and answer some basic questions about various ways to reach a bowling score of 200. What does it take?

If my memory serves me correctly, the Bowl Movements have reached the 200 mark four times in league competition. Johnebob has achieved this feat three times, and JD did it once. I have done it once but not during league. Geoff has bowled as high as 169 in league, and I have topped out at 192. If you are like us, 200 represents the promised land. It means you have arrived as a decent bowler. Hitting 200 regularly means you are a good bowler.

What is the minimum number of strikes that can be bowled to reach 200?
In order to have a 200 game, you must have strikes. A game with 10 spares won’t do it, not even a game with ten spares and one strike. It is possible to reach 200 with only two strikes, but they must be back to back. To pull off a two strike 200 game requires bowling a spare on the remaining 8 frames, and seven of those must be nine-spares with the last an eight spare. It’s much easier to do with 5 or more strikes.
How many strikes guarantee a 200 game?
This one might surprise you. The answer is eleven. It is possible to have ten strikes and not bowl 200. It would be an extremely unusual result, but it is possible. In order to do this, three of those strikes would have to occur in the 10th frame, and the remaining two frames would have to be left open with three or fewer pins. I have a hard time imagining this actually occurring, but it is possible. Get 11, and you're home.

How many frames can be left open and still reach 200?
No doubt you have been in this position. You step up to the first frame thinking this is going to be the game when you reach 200, but you leave it open. Is a 200 game still possible? Yes. For most 200 games, zero to one frames are left open. Nonetheless, it is possible to reach 200 with four open frames. To achieve this, all of your strikes must be consecutive. In the 200 game below, six consecutive strikes are followed by four open frames. It is also possible to leave the first four frames open and strike frames 5 through 10. In this case, it is possible to reach 200 with a score of X,4,- in the 10th.

When should I give up on 200?

You probably know that if you are sitting on a 120 in the 9th frame, you can give up on reaching the deuce, but should you have given up on it in the 8th? Not necessarily. Here are some simple rules to remember if you are wondering if 200 is still possible. 1) The maximum score you can receive on any frame is 30. You can always multiply the number of frames remaining by 30 to determine how many more pins are possible. 2) If you are sitting on a spare, again multiply the remaining frames by 30 and add 10. If you are sitting on a strike, multiply the remaining frames by 30 and add 20. If you are sitting on two strikes, add 30. This is the score you will receive if you strike out.

The table to the left shows the minimum score you must have by frame to keep 200 within the realm of possibility depending on what happened in the prior frame(s). The first thing to notice is that no matter what happens in the first three frames, 200 is still possible, but by end of the fourth frame, you must have at least a score of 20.

If you left the 9th open, you must have at least 170. If you spared the 9th, you need at least 160. You can still reach 200 with 150 in the 9th if you struck it. If you struck 8 and 9, you can have a 140 in the 9th and still reach the deuce. All of these scores are minima meaning that if you have any of these, you must strike out to reach 200. If you want to reach 200, try to keep your scores above these.
Easier said than done, I know.


  1. When watching him bowl Wes Malott seems to be looking at the spot on or between the arrows before he approaches but I think he looks down on the board leading to his spot just after he releases the ball. Whether or not I'm correct about this, would that be a better way to hit the spot or better to focus on the spot and not the board? Forget it.

  2. "Forget it" was posted in error

  3. I have a question about how many possible frames are bowled in one game. First off, 9 frames bowled of course is 9 frames bowled. Now comes the 10th frame. Suppose in the 10th frame, I throw x9-, is that considered 10 frames or 11 frames? Suppose I throw a x9/ or a 9/x, is that considered 11 frames bowled? Of course if I throw 3 strikes in the 10th, that is considered 12 frames. Now if I open frame in the 10th, that would be 10 frames bowled.

  4. Hey Anon, All of your examples are considered ten frames. You are correct that you may have as many as twelve chances to get a strike in a game of bowling, but this is only because the 10th frame has slightly different rules. If you were only allowed to throw 2 balls in the 10th, the maximum score you could receive would be a 290. By adding a 3rd, a 300 becomes possible.

  5. Best Bowling Blog Post Ever. I've googled this post like 7 times.

  6. I bowled my first 200 in league play just the other night. I came close a few times, but finally achieved it. I forget how many strikes I had, but I know I didn't have an open frame until the 9th. I was at 181. I was never so nervous, but I threw a strike on my first ball in the tenth, and then I got eight pins on my next throw. Unfortunately, I left the 4-7. I'm a lefty, so you know how hard that is. Anyway, I managed to knock out the 7 pin, and I achieved exactly 200. I had a 213 last year during a practice game, but it was fun to finally have one in front of my bowling friends. Great blog.

  7. I rolled a 203 yesterday. I was pre-bowling for our Thursday Bad Bowlers league. It was my second-ever deuce (the previous one came a month ago) after many years of bad bowling. Made my whole day.

  8. im only 12 and i got a 168 once but i still want to get a 200 because i just entered a bowling league and i want to show my other teammates that i can really bowl cause my first impression as a bowler on the team wasn't so great also iv'e been wanting to score 200 for a while.


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