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- For the British doo-wop revival band of the 1970s and 1980s, see Darts (band). For other meanings, see Dart.
Darts is a game or rather a variety of related games, in which darts are thrown at a circular target (dart board) hung on a wall. Though various different boards and games have been used in the past, the term 'darts' usually now refers to a standardized game involving a specific board design and set of rules.
As well as being a professional competitive sport, darts is a traditional pub game, commonly played in the United Kingdom (the first to officially recognize darts as a sport), the Netherlands, Israel, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, and elsewhere.
Dart boards are usually made of sisal fibers or boar bristles. A regulation board is 18 in (45.72 cm) in diameter, and is divided into 20 sections. Each section is lined with thin metal wire. The numbers indicating the various scoring sections of the board are normally made of wire, especially on tournament-quality boards, but may be printed directly on the board instead.
Height and distance
In the standard game, the dart board is hung so that the bullseye is 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) from the floor, eye-level for a six foot man. The oche or hockey (pronounced 'ock-ey')--the line behind which the throwing player must stand--is 7 ft 9¼ in (2.37 m) from the face of the board, though a few British pubs set it at 8 ft (2.44 m) or 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m). For casual play, it is not uncommon to find the oche somewhat further or closer than the tournament standard, either due to rounding of the specified distance (to 7½ or 8 feet), or just due to measurement error (such as measuring from the wall, rather than using a plumb line to measure from the board face).
Various designs of dartboard have been used, and regional variations remain in parts of Staffordshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. In particular, the Yorkshire and Lancashire boards differs from the standard board in that it has no treble ring and has a single, inner bull. The dartboard itself may have its origins in the cross section of a tree, although some historical records suggest that the first standard dartboards were the bottoms of wine casks, hence the game's original name of "butts". There is speculation that the game originated among soldiers throwing short arrows at the bottom of the cast or at the bottom of trunks of trees. As the wood dried, cracks would develop, creating "sections". Soon, regional standards emerged and many woodworkers supplemented bar tabs by fabricating dart boards for the local pubs.
The numbering plan known by many today has a 20 on top; however, a great many other configurations have been used throughout the years and in different geographical locations. By most accounts, the numbering layout was devised by Brian Gamlin in 1896 to penalize inaccuracy. Although this applies to most of the board, the left-hand side (near the 14 section) is preferred by beginners, for its concentration of larger numbers. Mathematically, removing the rotational symmetry by placing the "20" at the top, there are 19!, or 121,645,100,408,832,000 possible dartboards. There are many different layouts that would penalize a player more than the current setup; however, the current setup actually does the job rather efficiently .
The standard dartboard is divided into twenty numbered sections, scoring from one 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.
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 coloured black and yellow, scores precisely the points value of that section.
- Hitting the thin outer portions of these sections, coloured red and green, scores double the points value of that section.
- Hitting the thin inner portions of these sections, roughly halfway between the outer wire and the central circle and again coloured red or green, scores triple (or 3x) the points value of that section.
- The central circle is divided into a green outer ring worth 25 points (known as "outer" or "outer bull") and a red 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 section.
- Hitting outside the outer wire scores nothing.
- Any dart that does not remain in the board after throwing (for example, a dart that hits a wire and bounces out of the board or drops out with the impact of a later throw) also scores nothing. Variations on this rule exist - some judge that a dart which obviously hits a scoring section but then subsequently drops out will count if caught before it hits the floor or if it rebounds behind the throwing line before touching the ground it may be thrown again. In professional rules, a dart's tip must be touching a scoring section for the dart to count. In local Australian rules, not hitting the dart board means that the player needs to skull an alcholic drink.
The highest score possible with 3 darts is 180, 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. The commentator will often refer to this as "ton-eighty". A "ton" is the accumulation of 100 points with any amount over and including 100. The score 131 for example would be made into a compound number with "ton" as the prefix, as in "ton-thirty-one".
A game, or "leg", of darts is usually contested between two players who take turns in throwing up to three darts. Starting from a set score, usually 501 or 301, a player wins by reducing his score to zero. The last dart in the leg must hit either a double or the inner portion of the bullseye, which is the double of the outer bull, and must reduce the score to exactly zero. Successfully doing so is known as "doubling out" or "checking out" (see the Glossary of darts for more darts terminology). A throw that would reduce a player's score to one or below zero does not count, his turn ends, and his score is reset to what it was before that turn. (Sometimes in friendly games a player is allowed a dog's chance by "splitting the eleven" if he has a remaining score of 1. This required placing a final dart between the legs of the number eleven in the normally non-scoring part of the board). Since the double areas are small, doubling out is usually the most difficult and tense part of a leg. Longer matches are often divided into sets, each comprising some number of legs.
Although playing straight down from 501 is standard in darts, other variations exist, notably "doubling in", where players must hit a double to begin scoring, with all darts thrown before said double contributing nothing to his score. Other games that are commonly played differ in their scoring methods. These include "Round The Clock", "Killer" and the more complicated Cricket.
In "Round the Clock", players must hit each numbered section in turn, finishing with a bull to win. Far from being a beginner's game, Round The Clock is a good training game since it practices targeting all areas of the board, a skill which is essential when finishing a classic leg. This can be taken further by only counting the double or the treble rings. It can also be played where hitting the double advances you two numbers and the treble advances three. For example, if your first target is number 1 and you hit the treble ring, then your next target is number 4. In addition, some play that if you successfully hit three numbers with your three darts in a turn, you get to throw again. Often in some leagues, hitting a double advances you to the number which is twice the value of that thrown, plus one. For example, hitting a double 9 will take you to 19. These games often end with the first person to hit two double 20s.
An additional rule which can add some spice to playing Round The Clock with two or more players is that any dart that falls in a bed other than the one aimed for is forteited to any player(s) awaiting that number.
In Killer, a number of players "own" a number on the dartboard (often selected by throwing a dart with their non-playing arm) and compete to build up "lives" (by hitting that number) until a threshold is reached (usually 4 or 6) before attempting to "kill" other players by removing the lives they have built up (by hitting those other players' number) until a single player is left.
Of the two professional organisations, the British Darts Organisation (BDO), founded 1973, is the older. Its tournaments are often shown on the BBC in the UK, and on SBS6 in the Netherlands. The BDO is a member of the World Darts Federation (WDF) (founded 1976), along with organisations in some 60 other countries worldwide. The BDO originally organised a number of the more prestigious British based tournaments with a few notable exceptions such as the News of the World Championship and the national events run under the ausipices of the National Darts Association of Great Britain. However many sponsors were lost and British TV coverage became much reduced by the early nineties.
In 1992 a breakaway organisation was formed, initially known as the World Darts Council (WDC) but shortly after known as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Over the years many top players from the BDO have left to join the PDC with very few going in the other direction. An influx of sponsors and rapid expansion of television coverage continues.
The PDC tournaments often have higher prize money and without doubt the best player in the world: 13-time World Champion Phil Taylor. Cementing the PDC's dominance at the very top of the game in early 2006, four-time BDO world champion Raymond van Barneveld moved to the PDC.
The BDO and PDC both organise a World Professional Championship. They are held annually over the Christmas/New Year period, with the PDC championship finishing slighlty earlier than the BDO tournament. The BDO World Championship has been running since 1978; the PDC World Championship started in 1994.
Both organisations hold other professional tournaments. The BDO organise the International Darts League, World Darts Trophy, World Masters, Dutch Grand Masters, Europe Cup, and many Open tournaments. They also organise county darts for their 64 county members in the UK including individual and team events.
The PDC's major tournaments, known as Premier Events are the Premier League, UK Open, Las Vegas Desert Classic, World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix. They also hold PDC Pro Tour events and smaller category events around the UK.
The WDF World Cup for national teams and a singles tournament has been played biennially since 1977.
- The American Darters Association offers league organization for casual singles players throughout the United States (http://www.adadarters.com/)
- The American Darts Organization is the world's largest national dart league, facilitating the organization of members' regional divisions, and promoting the sport via pub-based teams and individuals across the country (http://www.adodarts.com/)
Darts first appeared on British television in 1962 when Westward Television broadcast the Westward TV Invitational to the south-west of England. In 1970, ITV broadcast the News of the World Championship and from 1972 the Indoor League, which featured a darts tournament.
From there darts coverage first expanded with many major tournaments appearing on both ITV and BBC through the 1970s and early 1980s, but the cancellation of ITV's World of Sport show in 1985 was the start of their gradual withdrawal from coverage. The BBC also cut back on their coverage to the extent that one major event was still broadcast on either channel by 1988 - the World Championship.
With the creation of the PDC and expanded coverage of the BDO on BBC, darts has since grown again. There are again several major tournaments broadcast in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
In Europe, Eurosport broadcast the Lakeside World Championships having signed a three-year contract in 2006 and have also broadcast the Finland Open, BDO British Internationals, the BDO England Open and the BDO British Open this year.
In the UK, The Lakeside and the Winmau World Masters are currently broadcast by BBC. However it wasn't until 2005 that viewers were able to see every dart thrown live at the World Championship. This was the year that BBC introduced interactive coverage on its BBCi service.
In the Netherlands, SBS6 broadcasts the Lakeside (since 1998), International Darts League, World Darts Trophy and the Dutch Open. RTL 5 broadcast the Dutch Grand Masters in 2005, but SBS6 will be covering the 2007 event. Most of these tournaments can also be watched on the internet for free using a live stream, depending on contractual restrictions (external links: SBS stream and watchdarts.com stream).
The PDC's Premier League, UK Open, Las Vegas Desert Classic, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix are all televised live and in their entirety in the UK by satellite and cable broadcaster Sky Television. Dutch station, Sport One and several other tv stations across the globe also broadcast the PDC events.
The PDC launched the World Series of Darts for the first time in the United States in 2006. Its $1 million prize showcased professional darts in the United States. Unfortunately the programme was not a ratings success and was taken from its peak time broadcast slot on ESPN after just a few weeks. It is unclear whether there will be another World Series of Darts tournament.
In places where alcohol is consumed, English law has long permitted betting only on games of skill, as opposed to games of chance, and then only for small stakes. An apocryphal tale relates that in 1908, Jim Garside, the landlord of the Adelphi Inn, Leeds, England was called before the local magistrates to answer the charge that he had allowed betting on a game of chance, darts, on his premises. Garside asked for the assistance of local champion William "Bigfoot" Anakin who attended as a witness and demonstrated that he could hit any number on the board nominated by the court. Garside was discharged as the magistrates found darts, indeed, to be a game of skill. More recently, in keeping with Darts' strong association with pubs and drinking, matches between friends or pub teams are often played for pints.
In the professional game, betting is prominent (particularly within the PDC) with many of the big betting companies sponsoring events, such as Stan James and Ladbrokes. Stan James sponsor the World Matchplay, Ladbrokes sponsor the world championship.
On FSN broadcasts in the United States, the logos for Ladbrokes are pixelized out and digitally obscured, along with any audible references to Ladbrokes, due to American laws and policies against online gambling.
- Bob Anderson The Limestone Cowboy 1 time BDO World Champion
- Steve Beaton Magnum-PI 1 time BDO World Champion
- Richie Burnett The Prince of Wales 1 time BDO World Champion
- Eric Bristow Crafty Cockney 5 times BDO World Champion
- Tony David The Deadly Boomerang 1 time BDO World Champion
- Keith Deller The Fella 1 time BDO World Champion
- Andy Fordham The Viking 1 time BDO World Champion
- Trina Gulliver 6 times Women's BDO World Champion
- Ted Hankey The Count 1 time BDO World Champion
- Jelle Klaasen - The Matador 1 time BDO World Champion (current), youngest ever World Champion.
- John Lowe Old Stoneface 3 times BDO World Champion
- John Part Darth Maple 1 time BDO World Champion, 1 time PDC World Champion
- Dennis Priestley The Menace 1 time BDO World Champion, 1 time PDC World Champion
- Leighton Rees 1 time BDO World Champion
- Phil Taylor The Power 2 times BDO Champion, 12 times PDC World Champion
- Raymond van Barneveld Barney 4 times BDO World Champion, 1 time PDC World Champion (current)
- Les Wallace McDanger 1 time BDO World Champion
- John Walton John Boy 1 time BDO World Champion
- Jocky Wilson 2 times BDO World Champion
Other Famous BDO Players:
- Martin Adams Wolfie 2 time WDF World Cup Singles Champion
- Martin Atkins The Assassin
- Gary Anderson Dreamboy - Current WDF World Number One
- Tony Eccles The Viper
- Darryl Fitton The Dazzler
- Bobby George Bobby Dazzler / Mister Glitter
- Shaun Greatbatch 9 Dart
- Mervyn King The King
- Jarkko Komula Smiley
- Jonny Nijs 1 time WDF Youth World Champion (current)
- Gary Robson Robbo
- Vincent van der Voort
- Mike Veitch The Cat
- Tony West The Tornado
- Simon Whitlock The Wizard
- Dick van Dijk The Undertaker 1 time WDF World Cup Singles Champion (current)
- Michael van Gerwen Mighty Mike -Youngest Professional Dart Player, Winmau World Masters 2006 Champion
Other Famous PDC Players:
- Ronnie Baxter The Rocket
- Adrian Lewis Jackpot
- Colin Lloyd Jaws Current PDC World Number One and former World Grand Prix and World Matchplay winner.
- Wayne Mardle Hawaii 501
- Peter Manley One Dart
- Chris Mason Mace the Ace
- Kevin Painter The Artist
- Roland Scholten The Tripod
- James Wade 009
- Alan Warriner-Little The Iceman. 2001 World Grand Prix Champion.
- Darts Tournaments previous winners, history and information.
- Darts Players profiles.
- Cricket - An alternative game using the standard dart board.
- Glossary of Darts
- Pub Sports
- Nine dart finish
- Bullseye - A British game show based around darts.
- Pub games
- American Darts
- Nicknames in darts
- Darts receives recognition from Sport England
- DartsMad brings players and fans together with loads of nice features
- Superstars of Darts World's most popular darts forum frequented by many top players, officials and organisers. Website contains many facts and reviews on professional darts
- SEWA-Darts is a great source of articles, reviews and a great forum.
- Dartcalculators.com Various online free to use dart calculators. Including graphical overview each leg played and more statistics.
- Dartoid's World is a great source of articles, WSOD Player profiles and more
- The Unofficial BDO Players Darts Forum The only BDO-centric forum on the Internet. A thriving community for BDO darts players and followers.
- Diddle for the Middle Learn the rules of several different darts games and other darting tips.
- Ladies Darts Association
- World Darts Federation
- British Darts Organisation
- Official Boards of the BDO
- Professional Darts Corporation
- American Darts Organization
- Darts Federation of Australia
- National Darts Federation of Canada
- Dutch Darts Organisation
- Czech Darts Organisation
- Norwegian Darts Organisation
- Swedish Darts Organisation
- Danish Darts Union
- Polish Darts Organisation
- Polish Darts Federation
- Swiss Darts Association
- Italian Darts Association
- New York Dart Organization
- American Darts Association
- Philadelphia Darts
- The Minuteman Dart League
- Metro East Dart Association
- Windy City Darters
- Bizkaia Darts
- Olde English Dart League (Philadelphia)
- Wolverine Dart Association
- Red Dragon Darts
- National Dart Federation of Canada
- Québec Darts Association de Dards du Québec
- Dallas Dart Circuit
- Patrick Chaplin - darts historian
- Online history of traditional games - lists pubs in England where traditional variants of dart boards are preserved
- Collection of darts games rules (46 games)
- A brief analysis of the scoring pattern.