How to Play Darts: A Guide to Darts Basics and Essentials

Last updated: Oct 21, 2020

Basic darts games types

There are plenty of ways to play with a dartboard, and some popular ways to mix it up for practice or for fun. Here are a few ways to play darts that vary from easy to high skill game modes:

The ‘01s: Otherwise known as standard 701, 501, or 301 games, these are the types of games you see played in pro tournaments. Unless you’re playing a casual match at home, there are plenty of standard rules and regulations in playing competitive darts.

Cricket: Not to be confused with the bat and ball game, this game can be played with two people or two teams. The objective of this game mode, like the bat and ball game, is to obtain the most points by the end in order to win.

Baseball: This darts game can be played with two people to several teams of players. The premise is simple enough as well: the highest-scoring team or player by the end of all the innings wins the game, as one would in a regular game of baseball.

Lawn darts: Also known as yard darts or javelin darts, this is an outdoor yard game with a greater semblance to both darts and horseshoes. What makes lawn darts different in particular are the two horizontally placed targets on the ground and the large darts.

What you need to play darts

How to Play Darts: A Guide to Darts Basics and Essentials

There are two main things you’ll need to play darts: darts and dartboards.

Dartboards

The best quality boards are made from sisal fibers, or boar bristles with cork. They were traditionally banded with thin steel wire and staples, but nowadays, you’ll find the details on the board are electronically printed to prevent the off chance that darts would hit the wiring or “spiders” and bounce off, resulting in no points.

Darts

Darts have been designed to fly when thrown the best way possible, depending on your style or experience level. All four parts of the dart contribute to its performance and are usually interchangeable, so you can find your ideal preferences.

Tips: The pointy plastic end that sticks to the board is known as the tip. They are either movable or fixed, the latter of which is more prone to bouncing back when hit by spiders. Some models have steel tips instead, which you be less prone to breaking or snapping, but can still bend.

Barrels: This is the part of the dart you’re supposed to hold when shooting. Barrels most commonly come in two materials, brass and nickel/tungsten alloy.

Brass barrels are lighter and relatively inexpensive, making them easier to hold for large hands and beginners.

Nickel/tungsten alloy is heavier, more streamlined and durable than brass. This type of barrel is thinner to allow for more darts in the same area for accuracy. It’s pricier and recommended for more polished players.

Shafts: The shaft adds to the length of the dart and balances out its weight. The length of the shaft determines how stable or how direct the dart is.

Plastic shafts are inexpensive. They can come in fun colors but are flimsier and easy to break. No worries, they’re easily replaceable.

Aluminum shafts are more durable. They also tend to be colorful and can be decorated with engravings. These shafts tend to be heavier in the hand and bend instead of snap; they can be straightened for reuse.

Composite type shafts are made up of a combination of both plastic and metal alloy. They’re more lightweight than solid aluminum, more durable than plastic, and won’t vibrate when in contact with the board like aluminum.

Flights: This is the fin-like part that keeps the dart stable when in the air. The size of the flight determines the amount of air resistance and stability when midair.

The materials and shapes can be anywhere from the soft or hard plastics, nylon, dimplex (textured), and spiral types.

Larger flights have higher air resistance and make the dart more stable when thrown.  These are beginner recommended.

Smaller flights make for sharper throws, which is ideal if you want a more direct and accurate shot. Recommended for intermediate and expert players.

Of course, in order to play darts, you’ll also need someone else or a group of people to play it with. Most games call for two teams, but some have room for more if you’re playing in a larger group.

How to score darts

How to Play Darts: A Guide to Darts Basics and Essentials

No matter which type of game you play, the way to number your score on the dartboard is the same. The throwing space on the dartboard is divided into 20 segments, each one is numbered from 1 to 20. If you shoot in one of those segments, you get the number in points.

There are also two rings on the dartboard: landing your dart on the outer ring offers double the numbered segment’s score while shooting the inner rings triples the number score.

Hitting the bullseye in the dead center of the dartboard gets you 50 points while the ring directly around it is worth 25 points. There’s no doubling or tripling the bullseye scores.

There are some cases where the dart scoring method works differently, but for the more traditional games, you just add or subtract the values your darts land on.

Basic dart rules

The standard setup of the dartboard, according to tournament rules, should be as follows:

The dartboard should hang on the wall, so the bull’s eye is 5 feet and 8 inches off the ground.

A marking line on the floor should be about 7 horizontal feet and 9 ¼ inches from the dartboard. The player shooting darts cannot cross this line when they shoot.

These instructions aren’t nearly as important when playing at home, so these values can be rounded off but still close to the standard in order to both benefit from proper dart playing practice and fitting properly in your game room space.

The actual darts rules in terms of gameplay depend on the type of game you’re playing and the level of experience among your players. Read forward for the rules on each.

How to play cricket darts

“Cricket” in this context is not actually played with bats, balls, or wickets. It requires a slightly higher level of skill and precision as you can only use certain numbers on the board. It may take a while to learn how to play cricket with darts, but it’ll be fun practice once you get the hang of it.

This type of darts game is done with two players or two teams of players. The main objective is to “close” the numbers in play, those being the bullseye and numbers 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Get the highest score to win.

In an “inning”, each team takes turns throwing three darts each. In order to close the inning, a team needs to score three of a number. This is done by either scoring three singles, a double and a single, or a triple of the same number.

Once that is done, the team “owns” that number and can score on this number until the opposing team have “closed” their inning, then neither side can score on that “owned” number.

Once this has been repeated enough times and all the numbers have been “owned” and all innings have been closed, the team that has closed all innings first with the most points wins.

For the bullseye, the outer bull ring is a single while the inner is counted as a double.

How to play baseball darts

How to Play Darts: A Guide to Darts Basics and Essentials

To play baseball darts, you’ll need a minimum of two players, but can play with two teams or more as well. It’s simple enough: like cricket, your aim is to get the highest score at the end of the game.

Each player gets three darts to use for every round. They aim to throw their three darts at the number associated with the number inning. For example, in the second inning, all the players are aiming to hit in the section numbered 2 on the dartboard. Any hit within the right section is worth 1 point. If you hit the double outer ring, you get 2 points, and for the triple inner ring, you get 3 points. The maximum points a player can get in an inning is 9 points.

The scores are recorded on a scorecard, and the player with the highest score in the end wins.

How to play lawn darts

As a combination of darts with the field game “horseshoes”, the directions for how to play lawn darts should be pretty self-explanatory. The standard lawn darts set comes with four darts and two ring targets, so it can be played in either teams of two or one-on-one. The rings act as the area where darts should land to receive points.

In a traditional lawn darts game, the player stands 35 feet from their ring target. Both sides stand across from each other, with their opponent’s rings on their side (safety note, be sure to stand a safe distance from your opponent’s “toss area” to avoid getting hit).

Players or teams alternate their tosses in rounds, aiming to land their dart in their target area for points. Whoever gets more points when the round is over wins the round.

How to play darts 301

The standard 301 darts game is played with very specific measurements in distances and equipment set up beforehand. It’s very common, especially among the competitive scene, and is taken very seriously in the world of darts. Be sure to respect the local rules of your league or club when playing. Here’s how 301 darts is played.

Starting off with the toss of a coin or a first toss to see who gets closest to the bullseye, the first player to go is determined. Each player is looking to score exactly 301 points before their opponent in order to win.

Each player gets their turn to toss and score with their darts in each round, playing with three darts each. The score is written down by the scorekeeper who is allowed to tell only how many points the player has or needs, if asked.

If a player misses the board or the darts bounce off, there are no re-throws. If they exceed the score of 301 (i.e., they receive 12 points when they only needed 5 left), the score is not accounted for, and the player still must throw for 301 points.

How to play darts 501

To play 501 darts, the aim and rules are the same as 301. The only main difference is that each player is now aiming for 501 point exactly, making the duration of the match slightly longer.

Conclusion

A game of darts can be entertaining and easy to learn for anyone. There are plenty of fun ways to use a dartboard, whether it’s just for fun or you take the competition more seriously. There are game types for anyone at any level, for any number of people at once, either in the game room, arena, or even outdoors in the yard. However you like to play, there’s a dart type for you.

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