Skip to Content

What Is No Tap Bowling? Why Is It Called No Tap Bowling?

Game of nine pin bowling where knocking down nine or more pins counts as a strike in the single-pin scoring system.

No tap bowling is a fun and stimulating sport variation that many people are unfamiliar with. To be fair, most people play the traditional form of bowling (ten-pin).

But slowly, more and more people are learning about, and experimenting with, no tap bowling. In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about no tap bowling, including how it’s played, who it’s suitable for, and more! 

What Is No Tap Bowling?

A young female playing a game of nine-pin no-tap bowling where leaving the corner pin still counts as a strike.

No tap bowling is a variation of bowling where you get a strike if you knock down at least nine pins (i.e., nine or ten pins) on your first roll. In traditional bowling, you only get a strike if you knock down all ten pins on your first roll.

So, the primary difference is during a traditional bowling game, you aren’t allowed to leave a pin standing to achieve a strike. The no-tap variation of the game can be played with either regulation-size pins or smaller “mini” pins.

Key Takeaways

  • No Tap Bowling Variation: In no tap bowling, striking down at least nine pins on the first roll counts as a strike, differentiating it from traditional ten-pin bowling where all pins must be knocked down.
  • Suicide No Tap Rules: This unique twist involves knocking down all 10 pins, which scores zero. Therefore, players are encouraged to aim for 1-9 pins in 9-pin no tap and 1-8 pins in 8-pin no tap to score.
  • Variations and Popularity: No tap bowling includes 9-pin, 8-pin, and 7-pin variations, offering a more accessible and fun approach to the sport, increasing its appeal among casual players and leagues.
  • Scoring System: Similar to traditional bowling, no tap bowling awards points for strikes and spares but adds a unique rule where knocking down 9 pins (or fewer, based on the variation) automatically counts as a strike.
  • Pros and Cons: It offers a more relaxed and enjoyable experience, especially for beginners and casual players, but it may not satisfy competitive bowlers seeking the challenge and skill development of traditional ten-pin bowling.

Suicide No Tap

In suicide no tap, if you knock down all 10 of the pins, you get 0 points. You only get points if you knock down 1 to 9 pins in 9-pin no tap and 1 to 8 pins in 8-pin no tap. The same idea applies to 7-pin no tap. 

Why Is It Called No Tap Bowling?

To answer this question, you first need to know what a “tap” is in bowling. A tap occurs when you throw your bowling ball and knock down all but one pin. You’ll then need to roll your ball once more to try to pick up the spare.

That doesn’t happen in no tap, because hitting at least nine pins (or less, depending on the version of no tap you’re playing) is considered a strike. In no tap bowling, the nine pins are already considered downed, so you don’t have to tap the pins once more. 

Variations of No Tap Bowling

Result of a strike during a no-tap tournament, where the ball was apparently perfectly thrown with this scoring format.

No tap bowling (often called a nine-pin game) comes in different variations. Usually, it’s 9-pin no tap bowling, where you only need to knock down nine pins instead of all 10 to get a strike.

But there are 8-pin no tap and 7-pin no tap versions as well. The same principle applies for 7-pin and 8-pin no tap – you need only 7 or 8 pins down for a strike, respectively.

FeatureTraditional Ten-Pin BowlingNo Tap BowlingSuicide No Tap Bowling
Strike RequirementAll 10 pins on first ball9 or more pins on first ball0 points for all 10 pins; points for 1-9 pins
Second BallNeeded if not all pins are downedNot needed for 9 or more pinsOften not applicable or strategy changes
PopularityCommon form, widely recognizedGrowing, especially in leagues and casual playNiche, adds extra challenge for skilled bowlers
Scoring ComplexityHigh, with bonuses for strikes and sparesLower, easier for beginnersHigh, strategic for experienced players
Ideal ForSkilled bowlers, competitive playCasual players, beginners, and those looking for funBowling enthusiasts seeking a new challenge

How Popular Is No Tap Bowling?

Though no tap bowling isn’t as popular as traditional ten-pin bowling, it’s still played in many bowling leagues and casual get-togethers. The rules are a bit more relaxed, which is why some people prefer it to the more challenging game format.

If you’re looking for a no-tap bowling league in your area, we recommend searching online or asking your local bowling alley. You may be surprised to find that there are more no-tap bowling leagues and tournaments than you thought.

How Scoring Works in No Tap Bowling

No tap bowling is a type of bowling in which players receive an automatic strike if they knock down at least nine pins on their first ball (or roll). This rule is sometimes adopted in order to make the game more accessible to newcomers or to simply add an element of fun.

However, no tap bowling can also be played competitively; in such cases, it is essential to understand how scoring works.

Scoring is usually done the same way that it’s done for traditional bowling, though players can come up with their own scoring rules.

Strikes get you 10 points plus the number of pins you knock down on your next two rolls. Spares get you 10 points plus the number of pins you knock down on your next roll. Otherwise, you earn points equal to the number of pins you hit.

J & J Bowling's 9 Pin No Tap Tournament Game 1 (7/14/19)

Should You Play No Tap Bowling?

Whether you should be playing no tap bowling boils down to why you’re playing in the first place.

  • Are you playing for fun?
  • Are you tired of not getting strikes?

If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” no tap bowling is for you! 

No tap bowling is for players who want a better chance of winning. Traditional bowling rewards perfection, whereas no tap bowling does not.

So, if you’re typically hard on yourself or want to release some steam without being bogged down by bad rolls, no tap is an excellent option.

If you are an experienced bowler, no tap bowling can be a fun way to switch things up. Suicide No Tap, where you get 0 points for bowling a traditional strike, can make the game a bit more competitive for an experienced bowler. 

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bowler, no tap bowling is a great way to have more fun on the lanes.

Nine-pin bowling alive and well deep in the heart of Texas

Who Shouldn’t Play No Tap Bowling?

No tap bowling isn’t for everyone. If you’re a competitive bowler who takes the game seriously, no tap bowling may not be for you. This is because no tap bowling takes away the challenge and rewards players for getting strikes more easily.

If you want to improve your bowling skills and challenge yourself, we recommend sticking to traditional ten-pin bowling. This game format will help you strive for perfection and overcome any weaknesses you may have.

Should You Train with No Tap Bowling?

Most leagues don’t use no tap rules for training. This is because no tap bowling is meant to be a bit easier than regular bowling, so it’s not typically used to help people develop their bowling skills. 

If you want to train to improve your bowling average, we suggest you play traditional ten-pin bowling. After all, that’s the standard game format for competitions and league play.

If you want to eventually join a local or national bowling league, you need to overcome your bowling weaknesses during the actual game with no handicaps.

Using traditional game rules will help you strive for better form, increase your throwing strength, and strategize to get more traditional ten-pin strikes. 

Regular ten-pin bowling game, common at most bowling alleys where nines count as nine and the remaining pins are spares.

Pros and Cons of No Tap Bowling

Like anything, no tap bowling has its pros and cons. And knowing about both will help to determine whether it’s something you should look into.

Here are a few things to consider before deciding if no tap bowling is right for you.


  • No tap bowling enables bowlers to get strikes and score points with less-than-perfect bowling skills. This is great for kids and casual bowlers. 
  • No tap bowling is a departure from traditional bowling, making it more interesting. 


  • No tap bowling can take a little time to get used to, as it deviates from traditional ten-pin bowling rules. 
  • Winning at no tap bowling may not be very rewarding since the bowler knows that it’s an inherently easy version of bowling. Real satisfaction will come from scoring well playing traditional bowling. 

Many find that the pros of no-tap bowling far outweigh the cons, but everyone is different. The only way to determine if it’s a good fit for you is to try it out. 

Related Articles

My Final Words

No tap bowling offers a refreshing alternative to the standard form of tenpin bowling, particularly welcoming for those new to the lanes or seeking a less stringent challenge. Defining a strike on the first throw when at least nine pins are knocked down eliminates the frequent gutter balls and the need for a perfect second ball to score well. This variation encourages good ball placement and strategy over achieving a fresh rack with each first attempt, making it an ideal format for bowling enthusiasts keen on enjoying the game without the pressure of regular scoring bonuses tied to strikes and spares.

Bowling centers hosting no tap formats cater to a broader audience, from casual players to more skilled bowlers who might use the opportunity to refine their approach without the penalty of a gutter ball on the second throw. Ultimately, no tap means accessibility and fun, inviting every team captain, pro bowlers, and those just stepping over the foul line for the first time to enjoy bowling in an environment where a good first throw brings almost as much satisfaction and scoring potential as a perfect game in traditional tenpin bowling.