A game of darts is usually contested by two players, who take turns at throwing up to three darts. The players start at a set score, usually 501 or 301, and each has to reduce this score by deducting the amount of points he or she scores with each turn until they reach zero.
Double in, double out
In the professional game, a ‘leg’ is only won when the last dart is a double or lands in the inner circle of the bullseye, as well as making the score exactly zero. This game is traditionally called “double in, double out”, and can also includes enforcing the rule that players must hit a double in order to start scoring, so that any darts which do not score a double before this do nothing to the player’s score (although this is not the case in the professional game). If the player hits a section that would take his or her score to less than zero then no points are scored for that turn and their score is reset to what it was beforehand. The double sections on the board are mainly very small, meaning doubling out is a particularly tough and tense part of the game.
In friendly or amateur games, the rules are sometimes changed so that if a player has a remaining score of 1 they are given the opportunity to place the dart in between the legs of the 11, in the usual non-scoring part of the board. This is called “splitting the eleven”.
Round the clock
In this game, the players have to hit each section in turn, making their way around the dartboard in a clockwise movement and having to score a bullseye with the final throw. Beginners will often use this game to give them practise at hitting all areas of the board.
A variation where each player owns a number on the dartboard, selected by throwing the dart with the non-throwing hand, and they compete to build up lives by hitting their own number until a certain threshold is met. After this, the players try to get other people out of the game by removing the lives they have collected by hitting the other players’ numbers, until only 1 player is left.
Involves only hitting singles, doubles or triples of the numbers 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and bullseye or double bullseye. These can be hit in any order but, by the end of the game, the players have to have hit set amounts of each one: 3 20s; 3 19s; 3 18s; 3 17s; 3 16s; 3 15s; and 3 bullseyes. The first player to hit the set amounts of these is the winner.
The twenty sections of the dartboard each have a unique point value of 1 to 20 points. These are then subdivided into three semi-circular sections with wires, representing single, double and triple areas. If the dart lands in one of these sections the points are left at their single score, doubled or tripled. The highest score possible in darts game where three darts are used is 180, which is obtained by all three darts landing in the triple semi-circle of the ’20’ section. This score is sometimes referred to as a “ton-eighty”.
Basic rules to get started
As mentioned earlier, a number of variations can be played, but there are set rules for official games. The rules are as follows:
- A coin toss is used to decide who diddles first. Diddling involves throwing the dart at the board, and the player who gets the closest throw to the bullseye starts throwing first. If the throws are equal distance from the bullseye, the players will throw again and determine it on the next throw, and so on.
- Each player begins with an equal set score. There is no time limit as to how long each player has to take their turn, and the game lasts until one player has reached zero.
- All games must have a start line (the oche) to be deemed legal. Players are allowed to lean across this line, but their toe must not cross it whilst they are throwing the dart and their foot must not cross it before the dart has hit the board. If the player’s foot does cross the line, then a score is not allowed for that throw and it cannot be thrown again.
- Each player gets a set amount of throws per turn which they must not exceed (usually three). They are allowed to pass on their turn before they have used all of these throws.
- Any darts that land outside the outer wire score zero.
- The central circle is divided into two scores; the green outer ring, often referred to as the outer or outer bull is twenty-five points, and the red inner ring, referred to as the bull, inner bull or double bull is fifty points. The whole central ring is sometimes termed the bullseye, or this can be used just to refer to the red inner section.
- Scores are totalled after all darts have been thrown for that turn.
- If the dart does not remain in the board after it hits then it will score zero. In professional darts games, scores will only be allowed if the tip of the dart is touching a scoring section.
- If a thrown dart causes a dart that is already in the board to fall out, the score for the fallen dart will not count.
- The first player who reaches exactly zero first wins the game. If the player scores more than zero either the score will start again at their starting score, or the score will not count and it will move to the next player. This depends on which organisation is running the competition.