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Pool halls in Boston make a popular winter refuge for teens and university students (though some pool halls have age requirements of over 18 or 21). Forget Paul Newman and smoky interiors: Boston likes its billiards halls swanky and well lighted, with plenty of polished brass and dark wood. Many of them do double duty as bowling alleys. Be forewarned, however, that in New England bowling is often "candlepin," with smaller balls and different rules.
It was back in 1880 that Justin White adjusted the size of his pins at his Worcester, Mass., bowling hall, giving birth to candlepin bowling, a highly popular pint-size version of 10-pin bowling. Now played almost exclusively in northern New England and in the Canadian Maritime Provinces, candlepin bowling is a game of power and accuracy.
Paradoxically, candlepin bowling is both much easier and far more difficult than regular bowling. The balls are significantly smaller, weighing less than 3 pounds. There are no finger holes, and players of all ages and abilities can whip the ball down the alley. But because both the ball and the pins are lighter, it is far more difficult to bowl strikes and spares. Players are allowed three throws per frame, and bowlers may hit fallen pins (called wood) to knock down other pins. There has never been a perfect "300" score. The top score is 245. Good players will score around 100 to 110, and novice players should be content with a score of 90.
There are a handful of alleys in and around Boston, and many of them maintain their own quirky charm and history.
Boston Bowl. Open 24 hours a day, Boston Bowl attracts a more adult crowd. It has pool tables, a game room, and both 10-pin and candlestick bowling. 820 Morrissey Blvd., Dorchester, Boston, MA, 02122. 617/825-3800. www.bostonbowl.com.
Needham Bowlaway. One of the area's oldest bowling alleys, this tiny place has eight cramped lanes in a tucked-away facility down a flight of stairs. Fans say Bowlaway is like bowling in your own basement. 16 Chestnut St., Needham, Boston, MA, 02492. 781/444-9614. www.needhambowl.com.
Sacco's Bowl Haven. Sacco's Bowl Haven is proud that its '50s decor "makes bowling the way it was, the way it is." Run by the fourth generation of the Sacco family, the alley was recently renovated to include a Flatbread pizza restaurant. 45 Day St., Somerville, Boston, MA, 02144. 617/776-0552.
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