On Tilt

A Bad Thing in Texas Hold 'Em Poker and a Very Good Thing in Bowling

If you'll look at great players from any era, you'll see that their head leans to the ball side as the ball is being delivered from under or even inside of their chin. (That is not to say all great players do that. Some do not.) In today's game you'll often see the tilt is a bit more exaggerated than the tilt of a more traditional game. This under-the-chin delivery is a very powerful position and gives you an incredible amount of leverage. It allows the swing to tuck and the arm to be inside the shoulder. If you have it, don't change it. If you don't, you might want to find a coach who can teach it to you.

How to Get There

There are a couple of ways and many triggers/key thoughts you can have to help your body get there. You can experiment and find out which thought or picture works best for you. I'm assuming a right-handed four-stepper. Here's a front and back view of a player you might recognize that clearly shows the torso tilt I'm talking about. Tilt really creates a leveraged delivery.

A well-timed and leveraged shot will have your hip getting out of the way of the ball, not the ball getting out of the way of your hip. To be delivered in your power and with minimum effort, the ball needs to be inside your shoulder and next to your ankle at delivery. This position is created by tilting your torso. It's just a lean to the right that does not include listing in that direction! You don't want your whole body drifting off in that direction; you just lean a little.

It is often easier to do this if you have a little lean in your stance to go with those slightly flexed knees. The feeling can be enhanced if you tuck your elbow inside of your shoulder a bit instead of resting it on your hip. This doesn't mean you are so tilted to the right that a slight breeze could blow you over. It's just a bit of a lean. Check out the picture labeled Lean in Stance. You might think that Chris is not leaning to the right until you imagine what he would look like if he were standing up straight. His head would be more centered and his shoulders would be even. This sets him up for that exquisite position he has at delivery. You'll note his bowling shoulder is slightly lower in the stance and much lower at delivery. Good. No one can bowl without the bowling shoulder being lower than the other one. In fact, if any of the 'coaches' in your league tell you that you're dropping your shoulder, you can tell them how hard you've worked to be just like the pros!

You can feel whether or not you have the lean if, once you start walking toward the foul line, your inclination is to continue the lean getting your hip out of the way of your backswing and keeping your arm very close to your body. One of the best ways to know what this might feel like is not to do it. Yes, you read that right. Stand ramrod straight with your ball held waist high in line with your shoulder. See if you can walk to the foul line and throw a shot. You might want to try this without a ball first to make sure you don't hit yourself in the rear end or the ankle with the ball!

What could be perceived as stepping out of the way of your swing is actually a very good way to set up body tilt. You'll see many players in today's game doing this. They appear to step left out of the way of the ball, while still keeping the swing close to the body. Some of them end up further left than the board on which they started and others don't. To get an appreciation for this, try standing on 15 and visualizing a shot that goes across the 4th arrow toward the 4/7. Got it? Now, without moving your feet, visualize a shot that goes across the 4th arrow to the 6/10. What???? I'd have to walk way left to that. Yes, you would. That's essentially the feel of this type shot.


There is an additional thing that some people do that can contribute to the leans. Simply put, as your next-to-last step ends and your slide leg begins to move forward, the right knee collapses to the left. Your right foot follows the knee rather than leading it. You'll notice in the picture labeled Knee Leads Foot that the right knee has collapsed and is going to the left while the foot is still behind the body. This collapse and subsequent transfer of weight to the left can be very helpful in achieving torso tilt. It really helps you get lower at the line as well. If your knees are bent, your hips have to be lower. It can be a very compact and easily repeatable way to get the job done.

Your right foot follows the knee rather than leading it.

As I learned from Ron Hoppe, the right hip moving forward at delivery can provide lots of power. Here's a tip I learned from Junior Team USA Head Coach Rod Ross. You'll notice in the Knee Leads Foot picture that the heel of the right foot is to the left as if it were leading the foot to its final destination. Rod says if the heel continues to lead, the right hip will be back or slightly open. If the toe leads or the heel gives up its leadership role and allows the toe to be further left, it is much easier for the hip to be forward. What part of the right foot leads what other part can really make a difference in the power of a delivery.

Bonus Good Stuff

Getting the correct tilt can also help with another critical component of your game: the release. You've probably heard somewhere along the line about being under the ball or behind the ball or under and behind the ball at delivery. You either think you're already there or wish you knew what to do to get there. The tilt can help it happen.

Pretend for a moment that the ball is the earth. The North Pole is the top of the ball and the South Pole is the part of the ball that will touch the lane. If your fingers are above the equator, you will have a fairly weak roll. On the equator will be a much firmer roll and under the equator will give you a very strong roll. Under the equator is the position of most high rev players. On or below the equator is the goal as that allows you to put the most 'stuff' on the ball. How low you get matters a lot in this effort and torso tilt is the best aid to a good 'equator' position.

Here is a picture of the fingers being above the equator at the line and a picture that shows both the tilt and a below the equator position. It's pretty easy to see which one will have the most effect on the pins.