The conventional wisdom is that “Bed Posts,” a.k.a. the 7-10 split, is the hardest shot in bowling. But a new data analysis argues that the vaunted 7-10 is only the third-hardest spare for a bowler to pick up. That’s the biggest finding in research conducted by Slate’s Ben Blatt (who recently compiled a massive statistical breakdown of David Letterman’s Top Ten lists).
Blatt compiled data from more than 447,000 frames of professional bowling played over the last decade or so, and he found that the 7-10 split is converted to a spare once every 145 attempts. That’s a success rate of 0.7 percent, which is pretty rare. But it pales next to the success rate of bowlers trying to convert the 4-6-7-9-10 split. Known as the “Greek Church” because the pins’ placement supposedly resembles a cathedral, the 4-6-7-9-10 has a success rate of about 0.26 percent, or once in 390 shots. (As Blatt notes, the mirror image 4-6-7-8-10 split has a much higher success rate, so left- vs. right-handedness may be coming into play here.)
Blatt also spoke to professional bowler Parker Bohn III, and who acknowledges that the game’s most famous split is tough, but “very possible” for an expert. Bohn’s reasoning for why the 7-10 has become shorthand for an impossible shot? The appearance of difficulty. “Most people look at [a 7-10 split] and think, There is no way I’m going to make it,” he said, adding, “And I agree with them, 99 percent of them will never make it.” Thanks for rubbing it in, Parker Bohn III.