Darts Explained: How Darts Scoring Works

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Over time darts has developed from a traditional pub game into a hugely popular sport that is now organised by large governing bodies. Every Christmas, millions of people around the world tune into watch the flagship event of the darts calendar, the PDC World Darts Championship.

If you are unsure what all the numbers and sections mean on a dartboard, then you’ve come to the right place. In this post we will explain how to score a game of darts and give you some other fun formats of darts that you can try with your friends and family.

How to Score a Darts Match?

The official rules of darts are set by the BDO (British Darts Organisation) and the PDC (Professional Darts Organisation. In a game of darts, players will take turns in throwing three sharp, missile shaped arrows at a circular shaped dartboard aiming to score as many points as possible. The dartboard has 20 segments numbered from 1 to 20, which equates to the number of points that segment is worth. Each segment is split up by metal wiring and 2 rings; the ‘double’ ring on the outside and the ‘treble’ ring that runs through the middle of each segment. Landing a dart in either of these rings will double or triple the score for that dart. For example, throwing a dart into the double ring of the 20 segment is what’s called a ‘double 20’ and is worth 40 (20 x 2). Similarly, throwing a dart into the triple ring on the 16 segment is called a ‘treble 16’ and would be worth 48 (16 x 3). Players’ strategies will aim to maximise their scores by targeting the double rings, triple rings, and bullseye. In the centre of the dartboard is a small red circle known as the ‘bullseye’ and is worth a score of 50. Surrounding the bullseye is a small green ring called the ’25 ring’ and as the name suggests, scores you 25.

The maximum score a player can ‘throw’ on each turn is 180 (three treble 20s, 20 x 3 = 60, 60 x 3 = 180). Alternatively, a player can miss the board with each dart all together and score 0. The board should be placed on a wall so that the bullseye is 1.73m (5ft 8in) above ground level. Players must throw their darts from behind a raised block (38mm high) called the ‘oche’ (pronounced ‘okky’). For casual play a mark on the ground will be suitable. The front of the oche should be 2.37m (7ft 9 and ¼in) away from the front of the dartboard.

501 and 301

The most traditional and simplest form of darts is 501 and 301. Each player begins with a score of 501 or 301 (501 in professional darts) and takes turns throwing their three darts. The score for each turn is calculated and deducted from the player’s score until one player reaches a score of exactly 0. The only caveat to this is that the last dart thrown to reach zero or ‘checkout’ must land on a double or the bullseye. For example, if you had 32 left, you would aim for the double 16. If your score is reduced to one, goes below zero, or reaches zero without a double being thrown, you go ‘bust,’ and your score will return to what it was at the start of the turn. So, if you had a score of 32 left and threw a 16 and then a 15, you would be bust, your turn would end, and your score would return to 32. The most skilled players will aim to leave themselves with a repeatedly bisectable number, such as 32 or 24, as when aiming for the double, players are more likely to miss below the double ring and half their score. For instance, if you were aiming for double 16 and hit 16, you would have a double eight left, and so on.

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While 301 is more common in casual play, professional darts exclusively uses the 501 format. In darts tournaments, a game of 501 is referred to as a ‘leg.’ Some tournaments set a specific number of legs, and the player who wins the most legs takes the match. At the time of writing, all games in the Premier League of darts follow a best-of-11-legs format, meaning the first player to win six legs wins the match.

In contrast, other tournaments, such as the PDC World Darts Championship, utilize a ‘sets’ format. Each set comprises of a predetermined number of legs, usually 3, 5, or 7, where the player winning the majority of legs claims the set. To secure an overall win, a player must win the most sets.

How to throw a nine darter in darts?

The minimum number of darts a player can throw to go from 501 to 0 is nine darts. In the professional game, this is seen as an impressive feat that requires incredible skill and will send the spectating crowd into raptures. Below, we’ll go through some of the routes to achieve a ‘nine-darter’. Please note that there are other possible ways to throw a nine-darter than what we have set out, as players at the top level can work out very quickly what they need to checkout.

Route 1: First 3 darts – 180 – 3x treble 20.

Second 3 darts – 180 – 3x treble 20.

Third 3 darts – 141 – either treble 20 (60), treble 19 (57) and double 12 (24), or treble 17 (54), treble 18 (54) and double 18 (36).  

Route 2: First 3 darts –174 – 2x treble 20 (120) and treble 18 (54).

Second 3 darts – 180 – 3x treble 20.

Third 3 darts – 147 – treble 20 (60), treble 17 (51) and double 18 (36)

Route 3: First 3 darts – 174 – 2x treble 20 (120) and treble 18 (54).

Second 3 darts – 167 – treble 20 (60), treble 19 (57), bullseye (50).

Third 3 darts – 110 – treble 20 (60), double 20 (40), double 5 (10)

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Who has the most nine darters in history?

At the time of writing, Dutch player Michael Van Gerwen holds the record for the most nine-darters in the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) with 24, while British darts legend Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor follows closely with 21. Notably, Van Gerwen achieved the distinction of being the first player to throw a televised nine-darter without starting with a 180 in his first three darts. This impressive feat occurred during his 2019 World Series semi-final in Amsterdam.

Other formats of Darts

Darts doesn’t just have to be two players trying to reach a score of zero, there are various other forms of the game suitable for casual play, that can get more players involved and be a great source of fun if you’re in the pub or youth club with friends or at home with family. In this section we will go through some of the other forms of darts, so you can try them out the next you play!

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Around the Clock/World

‘Around the Clock’ or ‘Around the World’ is a game suitable for multiple players. The name is derived from the dartboard’s resemblance to a clock or the Earth. In this game, each player takes turns throwing three darts and aims to land one dart in every segment, starting from number 1 and progressing up to number 20. Players can only move on to the next number after successfully hitting the targeted segment, with doubles and trebles also counting. The first player to hit every segment, followed by the 25 ring and the bullseye, wins the game.

Cricket

As the name suggests, this game follows the format of cricket. It can either be played by two players, or two teams of multiple players. It starts with a coin toss to decide which player/team will ‘bat’ first. Each team/player will take it in turns to throw three darts as normal.

The batting team/player will throw three darts first, aiming to score over 40. For every point over 40 scored equals one run. If 40 or under is scored on a turn, then 0 runs are scored. The bowling team/player will then throw and will specifically aim for the 25 ring and the bullseye. Hitting the 25 ring will equal 1 wicket and landing a dart in the bullseye will equal 2 wickets. If the bowler throwing the darts misses the board completely, then 20 ‘extras’ (runs) will be added to the batting team/player’s score. Each team/player will take alternate turns into the bowling team/player has taken the equivalent of 10 wickets. At this point, the batting team/player’s total amount of runs is totalled. The roles then reverse, and the new batting team/player will try to beat the first batting team/player’s total amount of runs before the new bowling team/player take 10 wickets.  

The game can be made simpler for less skilled players or if it is taking too long for the game to reach a conclusion. For instance, the amount of wickets per innings can be reduced from 10, the target for the bowling team can be increased, or the batting team/players don’t have to score over 40, and their total score equals their amount of runs each turn.

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Golf

Darts golf is another fun and easy game that can be played by as many individuals as you wish. Taking on a similar format to golf, players are aiming to throw the lowest score possible. First, you should decide how many ‘holes’ you want to play. For larger groups, it is recommended to play 6 or 9 holes, so the game doesn’t take too long to complete. Players should then decide the playing order. The game starts on ‘hole 1’, and players will throw 3 darts each aiming for the number 1 segment of the board. Different sections of the segment are worth varying points.

Only the last dart thrown on each turn will count as the player’s final score for the hole. A player can end their turn after the first or second throw, if they are happy with the throw and don’t think they can do any better. This process is repeated for each segment of the board, dependant on how many holes are being played, and the player with the lowest score at the end of the game wins.

The game again can be simplified depending on the standard of players. To make the game easier, you can make the ‘holes’ bigger and make them two or three segments wide, or rather than having only the final throw counting, you can let the players have the best score from their three throws.

Killer

Despite its sinister name, killer is one of the most popular darts mini games for large groups. There are a few variations of the game but here are the most basic rules of killer.

After an order of play is established, each player throws a dart at the board with their non-dominant hand, and the number in which it lands becomes their number for the game. If the number is already taken by another player or if the dart misses the board all together, then throw again. Once each player has a number then players will take turns to throw three darts, as normal, to try and hit the double of their number. Once they hit the double they become a ‘killer’ and can aim for other players doubles. Each player has either 3 or 5 lives and if their double is hit by a killer then they lose a life. When a player loses all of their lives they are out of the game. This carries on until one player is left and they are declared the winner. If a killer hits their own double by mistake, they will lose a life.

As with all the other darts games we have explained in this post, the rules can be simplified to make the game easier for players of lower skill levels. Instead of having to hit your number’s double to become a killer, or take away another player’s lives, you can increase this target area to as big as you feel appropriate for the ability of your group. 

Now you know how to score a darts game with confidence and have a host of mini games to try, why not check out our range of PINPOINT darts equipment? Whether it be professional dartboards, brass and tungsten darts, dartboard stands, or wall-protecting dartboard surrounds, we have everything you need to fully equip your home, pub or darts club.

 By: David Nevin

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