Bucket Bowling Explained


What is a bucket in bowling, and what to do if you get them? Like any other sport, bowling has many slang terms that frequent players and professionals have learned and use constantly. 

However, those new to bowling might need to understand these terms and their meaning. 

A bucket in bowling is a word that refers to 4 pins left standing in the way to resemble a diamond after all the rest of the pins have been knocked down. There are several types of buckets, and there is a specific way to clear each out.

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This article covers all the types of buckets in bowling. 

What Is A Bucket In Bowling?

The best way to understand what a bucket is is to understand first the disposition of the pins that are supposed to be knocked down by the ball. 

In bowling, the pins are arranged like an equilateral triangle, with a single pin in front (the number one) and the rest of the pins numbered in progression from left to right (and front to back). In total, there are ten pins. 

The game of bowling wants you to knock down as many pins as possible, eventually all, with one single shot. So if there are four pins still standing after the shot and if they are disposed of in a certain way, they are called buckets. 

The term “bucket” may be used because the four pins still standing look like an actual bucket. In bowling terms, the pins left standing are called “spare.” A bucket is a particular type of spare composed of a specific combination of pins. 

Here is the type of buckets that are possible: 

  • 2-4-5-8 
  • 3-5-6-9 
  • 1-2-3-5

Knocking down the leftover pins is called “picking up the spare,” which should be done with the second shot.

What Does Clearing A Bucket Mean?

After the first shot, if pins are still standing up and forming a bucket, they must be knocked down with the next throw. Clearing a bucket means precisely the action of knocking down all the leftover pins with the second shot. 

There are many ways to get this done, such as using a hook shot or a head-on shot, but the purpose is to score the bucket. 

How To Clear A Bucket?

  • try hitting the leading pin
  • try to perform a hook
  • know when to use a straight shot
  • target one specific pin

If you want to score a bucket, there are different things you can do. The task can be easier or more difficult based on whether the bowler is left-handed or right-handed. In addition, each player can try different techniques.

Here is some actionable advice you can use:

Try Hitting The Leading Pin

One trick that many players use is to try to hit the leading pin. This way, the rest of the pins can be knocked down as a deflection. In other words, the first pin will take the others with it while falling. 

The head pin should not be hit at an angle; otherwise, when falling, it misses the rest of the pins in the bucket. If the ball hits the headpin dead-on, there are higher chances of picking up the rest of the leftover pins. 

Try To Perform A Hook

A hook is a type of shot that makes the ball roll in a curving pattern instead of the classical straight shot. 

For example, with the 3,5,6,9 bucket, it is advisable to try to use a hook to knock down all the pins; in this way, the ball comes in at an angle and has more possibility to hit the target. 

Similarly, if you encounter the 2,4,5,8 bucket, it is advisable to try to perform a hook to knock all the pins down. 

Know When To Use A Straight Shot

If you are facing bucket 1,2,3,5, the better choice is to perform a straight shot because all the pins are in the middle; in this way, you have better chances to knock them all out. 

Target One Specific Pin

One trick is to aim at a specific pin when performing the shot. It should help the player to concentrate better and get more results. For example, with this technique, one could ignore the rest of the pin but still knock them all down. 

For example, it is better to aim at the back pin in bucket 3,5,6,9, which is pin 9. Similarly, in the other two buckets (the 2-4-5-8 and the 1-2-3-5), it is better to focus respectively on pins 8 and 5. 

You can also use this method for other types of spares, not just buckets. The essential thing is understanding which one is the pin to focus on to knock down the spare. 

A good rule of thumb is to aim at the closest pin and try to hit it to make the rest knocked down. 

How Many Other Spares Are There Besides Buckets?

  • Bed Post
  • Baby split
  • Big four
  • Buckets
  • Fast eight
  • Double wood
  • Greek Church
  • Sour apple
  • Tap
  • Flat

In bowling, the word “spare” means that leftover pins (the ones still standing after the first shot) are knocked down with the second shot. Buckets are particular types of spares. 

But there are other types of spares one can score in a bowling game, and part of them are the “splits.” A split is a very challenging circumstance to get in. It occurs when the remaining pins after the first shot are not close to each other but are separated by space. 

In the worst circumstance, you can have the two furthest apart pins still standing (the 7 and 10 pins). In this case, it becomes exceptionally challenging to score a spare. But besides this challenging circumstance, it is still possible to score a spare even if a split is present. 

Here are the types of splits one could come across:

Bed Post

The bed post is another name for the 7-10 split described above, where the last two pins standing are pins 7 and 10, the two most distant pins. Bowlers also call the event the “bed post.”

Baby split

The baby split occurs when only pins 2 and 7 or 3 and 10 still stand after the shot. In this case, pins 7 or 10 are separated by one pin’s space. 

Big four

The Big Four is another split with pins 4,6,7 and 10 still standing after the first shot. Some bowlers also call this position the “Golden Gate.”


The Buckets are extensively covered above. It consists of 4 pis left standing, in the form of a diamond. 

The possible combinations for this to occur are 2-4-5-8, 3-5-6-9, and 1-2-3-5. They do not fall into the definition of a split since the pins are all close to each other, but it is worth listing them for completeness. 

Fast eight

The Fast Eight is a type of split where only the two corner pins are left standing. For example, those could be pins 4 and 7 or 6 and 10.

Double wood

The Double Wood, also called “sleeper,” is a type of split that leaves standing only the two pins behind one another. The possible combinations for this type of split are 2,8 or 3,9, or 1,5.

Greek Church

The Greek Church is another type of split that leaves five pins standings, two on one side and three on the other. The pins are 4,6,7,9 and 10. 

This split type is very challenging to hit with one shot, similar to the “bed post,” but some players believe the Greek Church is even more complex. 

Sour apple

The Sour Apple is also called “Lily” by bowlers and consists of pins 5,7 and 10. 


A “tap” is a type of split that leaves only one pin standing.


The Flat happens when pins 5 and 7 or 8 and 10 still stand. It can occur when the first shot hits the pins with little force or velocity. 

What Can I Do To Improve My Chances To Pick Up More Spares?

  • pay attention to your stance
  • practice
  • make a mental plan of the ball’s trajectory
  • target down the lane
  • broken wrist position

To win a game, it is essential to score as many spares as possible. There are certain things the bowlers can do to increase their chances of picking up spares, not just buckets. One of the first things to remember is to analyze the situation before making the next move.

Pay Attention To Your Stance 

Rushing into the next shot could bring about errors. So, prepare for the next shot by perfecting your stance and ensuring that your feet are correctly placed. But there are only a few things you can do through the game. 


The best way to improve the chances of picking up more spares is to practice. Experience and skills can make a huge difference in performance level. 

For example, you can adjust your stance by lowering the height of the backswing at the moment of the delivery in a way that increases control of the ball.  

Another good example is holding the ball a little higher than usual to increase the ball’s speed and have more chances to pick up more spares. 

Make A Mental Plan Of The Ball’s Trajectory

Many experienced bowlers also try to visualize the ball’s trajectory. Visualizing the trajectory, you want the ball to take can help you focus on the target more efficiently. In addition, a mental visualization makes it possible to prepare correctly before taking the shot. 

Target Down The Lane

Some professional bowlers prefer to target down the line instead of making a mental trajectory of the ball. This way, one can improve the chances of hitting the desired target. 

Broken Wrist Position

The “broken wrist position” is a way to move the wrist to release the ball to reduce speed and increase accuracy. The way to perform this move is to allow the wrist to tilt back as far as it can (and it looks like it is broken).

How To Leave A Bucket In Bowling

Leaving a bucket in bowling on purpose can be pretty challenging. Depending on the type of bucket one wants to leave, it is possible to use a different technique. But it is also necessary to practice a lot. 

For example, one can try different types of balls, shoot the ball to reduce its speed to hit precisely specific pins, and get the required pin actions to leave just a bucket. 

In addition, you can try different angles and hook amounts depending on which one of the three buckets you want to get. 

Other Bowling Terms Worth Knowing

When practicing bowling, knowing the terms involved in the game is very useful to understand what others are talking about and learn the game. 

Here are the most important terms and words related to bowling worth knowing:


Making a strike in bowling means knocking down all the pins with the first shot or throw. 


A split occurs when the pins that are left standing are separated by a space between them. They can happen when the headpin is hit directly and powerfully. A split is challenging to clear. 


The gutter is the pit that runs alongside the lane on either side. If the ball is not thrown correctly and doesn’t get to the pins, it will end up in the gutter and will not manage to get to the main lane to hit any of the pins.


The lane is the surface where the ball rolls before hitting the pins. Then, at the end of the lane, there is the pin deck, which is the place where the pins stand before they get knocked down. 


A turkey is a name assigned to scoring three consecutive strikes in a row. 


Like in any other game, also in bowling, there are rules. Any violation of specific rules during a game can result in a foul, such as touching the lane or going over the foul line. In case of a foul in bowling, the points scored are not counted. 


A double means getting two strikes in a row. 

Perfect Game

A perfect game in bowling means getting 12 strikes. This means that the player did not make any mistakes, and thus it is called a “perfect game.”

Spare Or Picking Up A Spare

Picking up a spare means knocking down all the leftover pins from the first shot. It has to be done on the second shot. 


Those that manage to make four strikes in a row get a badger. But it can also be used for the next consecutive strikes—for example, four-badger, five-badger, six-badger, etc. 


A pocket is an area to the headpin’s right or left in bowling. Generally, players try to hit one of these two areas to prevent a split. 

Open Frame

When playing a 10-pin game, an open frame refers to a situation where a player doesn’t hit a strike and cannot pick up a spare with the second throw. 

An open frame means no bonus points in a game, but a player can only get the points for each pin that was knocked down. 

Generally, in bowling, it is possible to get a maximum score of 300; any player can knock down all the pins in each frame and accumulate points and bonus points for a strike or a spare. 

Candlepin Bowling

Candlepin bowling is a variation of a 10-pin bowling game that uses smaller pins, while the rest of the rules and the number of pins are the same. 

How To Avoid A Split In Bowling?

Many players try to do all possible to avoid a split. However, splits can be very challenging to score; for these reasons, one can do a few things to minimize the chances of getting a split. 

For example, the form and posture while throwing the ball can make a huge difference.

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and perpendicular to the foul line can help. In addition, to get the maximum results, it is essential to take a four-step run up, and while releasing the ball, the arm should be fully extended. 

The type of ball used in a game can also make a huge difference. For example, using high-quality balls can prevent many splits. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Split In Bowling?

In general, a split happens when the ball hits the headpin with a lot of force. If that occurs, there is not enough pin action or a domino effect to knock down the rest of the pins. 

However, inexperienced players can make this mistake and try just to hit the pins with a lot of force instead of giving the ball a proper direction. 

What Is The Most Common Split In Bowling?

In general, for right-handed bowlers, one of the most common splits is the 3 and 10, while for left-handed players, it is most common to have a 1 and 7 split. 

What Are The Most Challenging Splits To Score?

The most challenging splits a bowler can face are the 7-10 and the Greek Church. The 7 and 10 pins are far from each other, while the Greek Church is a very complex split to score, although the pins are closer than the 7-10. 

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