Dart’s the game has been around for centuries and is believed to have started in medieval times.
Dart’s the Game
Darts is a sport in which small missiles are thrown at a circular dartboard fixed to a wall. Though various boards and rules have been used in the past, the term “darts” usually now refers to a standardised game involving a specific board design and set of rules. As well as being a professional competitive game, darts is a traditional pub game, commonly played in Britain and Ireland, across the Commonwealth, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, and elsewhere.
Modern darts have four parts: the points, the barrels, the shafts and the flights. The steel points come in 2 common lengths, 32mm and 41mm and are sometimes knurled or coated to improve grip. Others are designed to retract slightly on impact to lessen the chance of bouncing out.
The barrels come in a variety of weights and are usually constructed from brass, silver-nickel, or a tungsten alloy. Brass is cheap but light and therefore brass barrels tend to be very bulky. Tungsten, on the other hand, is twice as dense as brass thus a barrel of an equivalent weight could be thirty per cent smaller in diameter. Tungsten is very brittle however and so an alloy of between 80 and 95 per cent tungsten is used. The remainder is usually nickel, iron, or copper. Silver-nickel darts offer a compromise between density and cost.
Barrels come in 3 basic shapes: cylindrical, torpedo, or ton. Cylindrical barrels are the same diameter along their entire length and so tend to be long and thin. Their slenderness makes them better for grouping but because they are long, the centre of gravity is further back. Ton shaped barrels are thin at either end but bulge in the middle. This makes them fatter than a cylindrical barrel of equivalent weight but the centre of gravity is further forward and so theoretically easier to throw. Torpedo shaped barrels are widest at the point end and taper towards the rear. This keeps the weight as far forward as possible but like the ton, gives it a larger diameter than the cylinder.
The shafts are manufactured in various lengths and some are designed to be cut to length. Shafts are generally made from plastics, nylon polymers, or metals such as aluminium and titanium; and can be rigid or flexible. Longer shafts provide greater stability and allow a reduction in flight size which in turn can lead to closer grouping; but they also shift the weight towards the rear causing the dart to tilt backwards during flight, requiring a harder, faster throw. A longer shaft will, however, make the dart less responsive and increase the chance of “wobbling”.
The primary purpose of the flight is to produce drag and thus prevent the rear of the dart overtaking the point. It also has an effect on stability by reducing wobble. Modern flights are generally made from plastic, nylon, or foil and are available in a range of shapes and sizes. The three most common shapes in order of size are the standard, the kite, and the smaller pear shape. The less surface area, the less stability but larger flights hamper close grouping. Some manufacturers have sought to solve this by making a flight long and thin but this, in turn, creates other problems such as changing the dart’s centre of gravity. Generally speaking, a heavier dart will require a larger flight.
The choice of barrel, shaft, and flight will depend a great deal on the individual player’s throwing style. For competitive purposes, a dart cannot weigh more than 50g including the shaft and flight and cannot exceed a total length of 300mm.
The standard dartboard is divided into 20 numbered sections, scoring from 1 to 20 points, by wires running from the small central circle to the outer circular wire. Circular wires within the outer wire subdivide each section into single, double and triple areas. The dartboard featured on the “Indoor League” television show of the 1970s did not feature a triple section, and according to host Fred Trueman during the first episode, this is the traditional Yorkshire board.
Various games can be played (and still are played informally) using the standard dartboard. However, in the official game, any dart landing inside the outer wire scores as follows:
- Hitting one of the large portions of each of the numbered sections, traditionally alternately coloured black and white, score the points value of that section.
- Hitting the thin inner portions of these sections, roughly halfway between the outer wire and the central circle coloured red or green, scores triple the points value of that section.
- Hitting the thin outer portions of these sections, again coloured red or green, scores double the points value of that section. The double-20 is often referred to as double-top, reflecting the 20’s position on the dartboard.
The central circle is divided into a green outer ring worth 25 points (known as “outer”, “outer bull”, or “iris”) and a red or black inner circle (usually known as “bull”, “inner bull” or “double bull”), worth 50 points. The term “bullseye” can mean either the whole central part of the board or just the inner red/black section. The term “bull’s ring” usually means just the green outer ring. The inner bull counts as a double when doubling in or out.
Hitting outside the outer wire scores nothing.
A dart only scores if its point is embedded in or is touching the playing surface. This rule applies to any dart that lands in such a way as to be partially or totally supported by others that have already hit the board.
When a standard board is used, any dart whose point does not remain in contact with the playing surface until being collected by the player does not score. This includes darts that bounce off the board for any reason, that fall off on their own, or that are dislodged by the impact of later throws. However, when an electronic board is used, fallen/dislodged darts do score as long as their impacts have registered on the board first.
The highest score possible with three darts is 180, commonly known as a “ton 80” (100 points is called a ton), obtained when all three darts land in the triple 20. In the televised game, the referee frequently announces a score of 180 in exuberant style. A “quad” ring appeared briefly between the triple ring and the bull in the 1990s, leading to a potential 240 maximum (three quad-20s), a 210 maximum checkout (Q20-Q20-Bull) and seven dart finishes from a 501 start (five quad-20s, triple-17, bullseye), but was swiftly dropped from professional tournament play after only two years. One make of this board was the Harrows Quadro 240.
Skill level and aiming:
Path of the optimal location to throw a dart where σ = 0 is a perfect player and σ = 100 is a player who throws randomly.
Assuming standard scoring, the optimal area to aim for on the dartboard in order to maximize the player’s score varies significantly based on the player’s skill. The skilled player should aim for the centre of the T20 and as the player’s skill decreases, their aim moves slightly up and to the left of the T20. At σ = 16.4 mm the best place to aim jumps to the T19. As the player’s skill decreases further, the best place to aim curls into the centre of the board, stopping a bit lower than and to the left of the bullseye at σ = 100.
Where σ may refer to the standard deviation for a specific population:
There are many games that can be played on a dartboard, but the term “darts” generally refers to a game in which one player at a time throws three darts per visit to the board. The throwing player must stand so that no portion of his/her feet extends past the leading edge of the oche, but may stand on any other portion and/or lean forward over it if desired.
The most common objective is to reduce a fixed score, commonly 301 or 501, to zero (“checking out”). The final dart must land in either the bullseye or a double segment in order to win. A game of darts is generally contested between two players, who take turns. Each turn consists of throwing three darts. When two teams play, the starting score is sometimes increased to 701 or even 1001; the rules remain the same.
A throw that reduces a player’s score below zero, to exactly one, or to zero but not ending with a double is known as “going bust”, with the player’s score being reset to the value prior to starting the turn, and the remainder of the turn is forfeited.
In some variants (called a “northern bust” in London) only the dart that causes the bust is not counted. That is felt by some to be a purer version of the game, as under the normal rules, as explained above, a player left with a difficult finish, e.g. 5 and one darts remaining will often deliberately “bust” it in order to get back to the easier finish that they had at the start of their go. For example, a player with 20 at the start of their go could miss the double 10 and get a single, miss the double 5 and get a single, leaving them 5 and only one dart remaining. Their best option is to deliberately bust it to get back onto double 10. Under the “northern bust” they would remain on 5.
A darts match is played over a fixed number of games, known as legs. A match may be divided into sets, with each set being contested as over a fixed number of legs.
Although playing straight down from 501 is standard in darts, sometimes a double must be hit to begin scoring, known as “doubling in”, with all darts thrown before hitting a double not being counted. The PDC’s World Grand Prix uses this format.
The minimum number of thrown darts required to complete a leg of 501 is nine. The most common nine-dart finish consists of two 180 maximums followed by a 141 checkout (T20-T19-D12), but there are many other possible ways of achieving the feat. Three 167s (T20-T19-Bull) is considered a pure or perfect nine-dart finish by some players.