How to Play Darts 501: All the Basics You Should Know

Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: January 12, 2024
Rec Room Pick is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Darts 501 is one of the most popular and easiest games in darts 01 series which consists of 10 variations of playing darts. It is played professionally in Darts World Championships, but novices also play it recreationally since it requires minimal skills and equipment. Another plus is that you can add more participants to play in teams instead of having only two players.

In this article, you will find comprehensive information on how to play darts 501 and all the available adaptations of the game. We have broken down the various portions of a dart board which dictate the points you will be awarded, so you can maximize your hits. As well as dart boards, we have featured the accessories that will help you improve your performance. They include mats, storage cases, and wax and chalk for a firm grip. We have also added valuable tips and strategies on how to play darts 501 to give you an upper hand and help you start and end the game in the shortest time possible.

What’s the aim of the game

The aim of the game is to be the first player to reduce your starter score of 501 to exactly zero. However, the 501 darts rules set by the Darts Regulation Authority Trusted Source DRA Rulebook | Darts Regulation Authority Download the latest DRA Rulebook also stipulate that your last dart must land on either the bullseye, also known as the inner bull, or a double ring equal to your current score for you to qualify for the win. The inner bull is considered a double with 50 points.


Warm up by stretching and twisting your arm and wrist to loosen the muscles for comfortable throws.

Since darts 501 is a doubles game, you can improve your chances of hitting a double segment through solo practice. Practice hitting each double segment and reduce the number of darts you need to achieve this as you progress.

Alternatively, why not play 301 which is similar to 501, but with the advantage of fewer starting points and a shorter session?

Dartboard: which one and positioning

How to Play Darts 501: All the Basics You Should Know

For peak performance, you must ensure that the dart board is set up correctly and that your position does not affect your aim. Professional play requires a bristle  with diameter of 451mm. It should be installed with the 20 segment at the top.The distance between the bullseye and the floor should be 5 feet and 8 inches, and your position should be at least 7 feet away from the board. The furthest you should be is 7 feet and 9 inches unless you are using a soft tip board which has recommended throwing distance of 8 feet. . Hold the dart between your thumb and forefinger and at your eye level. The recommended maximum dart length and weight is 12 inches and 50 grams respectively. Depending on the type of dart board you have, you may use darts with soft or steel tips.

Accessories needed

You will obviously need spare tips and a dart board that is sturdy to avoid damage by darts and one with the numbers and various segments labeled clearly so you can be precise in your target. The World Darts Federation Trusted Source Approved by WDF - DartsWDF The approved products by the WDF.   requires bristle boards with a diameter of 18 inches for steel tips. They should also have a clock pattern numbered from 1 to 20. The recommended measurement for soft tip dart boards is a diameter of 15.5 inches. Check out these approved dart boards as well as other high-quality boards you can use to practice your throws at home.

Some players prefer wax while others choose chalk to improve grip.

A good cabinet will protect your wall and . A good sisal  is essential to protect your wall and secure your , but so are the accessories: quality steel-tip darts and a large scoreboard. It’s a good idea to buy everything from a trusted seller and in a bundle. Such products as Viper Elite Set, for example, are a wise investment since it includes not only a , but also steel tip darts, dry erase scoreboard, dry erase marker and mounting hardware, all in a durable walnut cabinet.

For accessories such as spare darts and flight shafts, find a dart case with segmented sections to store them neatly.


Each of the 20 portions of a dart board has a specific value assigned to it. There is an outer ring, also known as a double ring because when you hit it, it doubles the number on that area. To triple a segment number and significantly raise your score, aim for the inner ring of the board. The bullseye consists of an inner and outer circle with score value of 50 and 25 points respectively.

Any area outside the outer circle of the dart board scores you zero points. The other two instances that will earn you zero points are hitting another dart on the board, and your dart bouncing off the board.

Another word you should be familiar with is busting. This happens when a player’s total score is 1 instead of zero, which is required to win the game. Busting also occurs when you exceed your current score and reduce your overall points to a negative value. You may score exactly zero and still find yourself in a bust situation if you break the double-out rule which is also necessary for a win.

Each leg must have the same number of target points. In order to double-out and win a leg, you need to score a double that brings your points to exactly zero. If you miss, your turn goes to your opponent.

A dart’s point must touch the scoring portion of the dart board to count as a score.

Flight path is the trajectory of your dart whereas dart flight refers to the aerodynamic fins that stabilize a dart in motion. These fins come in varied shapes that define the flight path. 501 darts rules allow 5 other forms of flight paths in addition to the straight path which is standard. The standard path suits both beginners and professionals who favor heavier darts because it provides a decent balance between lift and stability.

Kite flight are short and spearhead-shaped with a sizeable surface area that grants you more control over your aim and allows for close groupings of the dart on the board. Pear or tear-drop flights have a similar shape to kite dart flight but they are faster and they have rounded edges that lift your draft from a small area for precise aim. Slim flight features an elongated shape that tapers towards the shaft base. It provides a flatter path with great precision for ultra-light darts. In the more sophisticated lantern or fantail flight, the dart’s tail stays down to optimize stability and to increase speed. The last dart flight path is the No. 6 shape which is a smaller variant of the standard path but with more speed.

How to Play Darts 501: All the Basics You Should Know


There are two common ways of determining the order of play. The first one is the more informal one where participants toss a coin. In the second method, each player aims for the bullseye, and the player who hits it or hits the segment closest to the bullseye starts that leg and the subsequent odd legs.

The game is divided into sets agreed upon before the game. Although the number of sets may differ depending on your variation, it must be in odd numbers such as 3 or 5. A set has three legs. Each player starts off with 501 points and a total of 9 darts. You have to throw 3 darts for every round before your opponent takes their turn.  The first player to double-out with exactly zero points wins that leg.

If none of the players gets to zero in 20 turns, the player with the lower point wins.

If the scores are equal after 20 turns, the game will continue for another possible 10 turns.

During these extra turns, the player who gets to zero obviously wins. A player with lower score any time after the 20th turn also wins the match.

If the scores are equal after 20+10 turns, the match will end in a draw.

Although players usually start and end with a double in The World Grand Prix and social play, some competitive games do not require a double-in.

Now let’s discuss the different scenarios a darts 501 game may end. The first one is the ideal one where the player who is the first to score exactly zero points with a double-out wins the game. If none of the players scores zero after a set, the player with the lower score wins.  If you and your opponent have equal scores after taking all your turns in a set, you add 10 extra turns with the match ending in a draw if you still have equal scores after these additional turns. Otherwise, the first player to get zero score wins.

To track the scores accurately, consider buying a versatile cabinet that is also equipped with a scoreboard. It will help you monitor your progress, protect your wall from damage by darts and secure your  in storage.


As mentioned earlier, some variations of the 501 darts rules do not require players to score a double to start the game, but they must end the leg with a double.

Another format adopted for recreational play only requires players to reduce their score to exactly zero without having to double-in or double-out. This grants players more freedom to play with different combinations.

Shanghai variation is quite relaxed. Players aim for number 1 up to 7. They use the three darts per round to aim for the current number in play. All you need is to hit the single, double or triple segment of the same number for an automatic win. You also win if you have the highest score at the end of the match.

Tips to win

  • Don’t obsess about your opponent’s score as this might intimidate you and affect your morale. Just stay calm and focus on your own shots.
  • If your first throw was a great shot, use it as a marker dart to repeat the same target or to guide your subsequent throws.
  • It is preferable to target double areas with a minimum of 60 points for every round instead of concentrating on the dart board sections with the highest scores.

Final thoughts

We have included the official 501 darts rules as well as some of the available variations so you can customize your game to your liking. As with most games, the best way to take your skills to the next level is through constant practice.


DRA Rulebook | Darts Regulation Authority
Download the latest DRA Rulebook
Approved by WDF - DartsWDF
The approved products by the WDF.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.