What is Darts?
Darts is an indoor game that can be enjoyed by two or more people. It is a throwing game where darts are thrown at a numbered dart board hung on a wall. Widely popular throughout Europe, especially England, darts are played mostly as a recreational pub game, although there are a number of lucrative professional tournaments held in Europe annually.
The game of darts can trace its roots back to medieval England in the 1300s. It was played as a military pastime, which had the benefit of improving a soldier’s throwing accuracy. Darts continued to evolve over the years until 1896 when an English carpenter named Brian Gamlin invented the modern game still played today. Gamlin came up with the idea of a numbered dartboard with large numbers next to small ones whereby mistakes could be penalized. This invention greatly improved the game's popularity and recognition as a sport.
How To Play
The dartboard is 17.75 inches in diameter with a scoring area of 13.25 inches in diameter. The board is divided into twenty equal sections, numbered 1-20 with a bullseye in the middle. The twenty sections are divided into single, double, and triple regions by an inner and outer ring. The inner ring is the smallest scoring area and is valued at triple the respective number. The outer ring runs around the perimeter of the dartboard creating the doubles region. The other two, skinny and wide, larger scoring regions of each section are the singles region. There is an outer and inner bullseye in the center of the board worth 25 and 50 points respectively.
The equipment needed to play darts is a dartboard and three darts per player. If you want to play competitively, you will also need paper or a board on which to keep score. An optional piece of equipment is a surround, which will protect the wall around the dartboard from damage.
Here is the essential darts equipment you should have:
- Dartboard: circular with numbers from 1 to 20.
- Darts: small missiles with a pointed front and feathers on the back.
- Scoreboard/Scoresheet: keeps track of who is winning the match.
- Surround: usually made from polyurethane, it fits around the dartboard to protect the wall.
- Throw line: marks the proper distance from the dartboard to throw the darts.
The popularity of darts has grown into many offshoots of the game. These games vary in the way they are scored and their objectives. The game played most often in competition is 501.
The object of 501 is to be the first player to reduce their score to 0. Each competitor begins with a score of 501 and throws three darts during their turn. The winner is the competitor that reduces their score to exactly 0 with the stipulation that the last throw must land in a double or the bullseye.
Rules and Regulations
Each of the different Dart games have their own unique rules, which may differ depending on “house rules.” However, the list of basic rules of Darts is quite short and simple.
Here are the most important darts rules you should know:
- Dartboard height: the board should be hung so that the bullseye measures 5 feet 8 inches from the floor.
- Dartboard distance: the front of the board should be 7 feet 9.25 inches from the throw line.
- Each player throws three darts from behind the throw line when it’s their turn.
- Only the darts that are stuck on the board after the three throws can be counted.
Here are the most important darts strategies you should know when playing 501:
Know your favorite triples and aim for them: Most players shoot for the triple 20 to make the most points possible for each throw, but it’s better to hit multiple triple 19s than just one triple 20.
Try to finish on favorable even-numbered doubles: Many players strategize to leave 32, or double 16, for their last throw. This is because a miss will likely leave many viable options to reduce their score to zero on the next throw.
Have a backup plan: If you usually shoot for triple 20s early, you may need to have a second favorite triple due to the first thrown dart blocking the rest of the triple 20 bed. You will now need another triple number with which you are comfortable.
Here is the common lingo and slang in Darts:
- Bed: a scoring area of the board (ie double bed, triple bed)
- Bounce Out: a dart that fails to stick in the board.
- Bullseye: the center of the dartboard.
- Double: the thin outer ring of the dartboard.
- Island: the actual scoring area of the board. Missing the board is referred to as “off the island”.
- Oche: the throwing line.
- Perfect Score: throwing 180 on one turn (three triple 20s).
- Triple: the thin inner ring of the dartboard.
The biggest and most important tournaments take place in Europe, where darts is extremely popular. The majority of famous and successful darts players are European.
Here are the most famous darts players you should know:
- Phil Taylor: now retired, the Englishman is universally regarded as one of the best.
- Michael van Gerwen: from the Netherlands, he is widely considered the greatest player in the world at this time.
- Larry Butler: the only American to win a major European tournament and widely considered the greatest American darts player.
Events and Competitions
Many darts tournaments are held every year, but only a select few offer substantial prize money and prestige.
Here are the most popular tournaments in Darts:
PDC World Darts Championship: is the most rewarding tournament in the world, with the winner receiving over $500,000. The event is held annually from December to January at the Alexandra Palace in London, England. Phil Taylor has won a record 14 World Championships.
Premier League Darts: is a very popular and rewarding darts tournament held annually in Europe from February to May. The winner takes home over $250,000. Michael Van Gerwen has won it a record five times.
World Matchplay: held annually in Blackpool, England. The third richest darts tournament in the world with a winner’s share of over $150,000.