Playing darts is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon or evening, and because there are so many different games to play with darts you are guaranteed to never get bored. In the following article we will introduce you to just a few of these entertaining games to play with darts, beginning with some of the more popular and oft-played dart games and followed by some information on some of the lesser known contests you can play.
The Standards – Popular Darts Games
In the following section we will talk about some of the more standard games to play with darts—games that are even played professionally in some cases.
The game of darts known as 501 is one of the more popular dart formats. The game is not only played recreationally by millions of people each year—usually in pubs, bars, game rooms and even pool halls—it is also the most common variation of darts among experts and professionals in the sport; a game played under the bright lights by some of the best players on the globe for trophies, prizes, bragging rights, and even cash winnings.
The game of 501 is actually quite simple, provided you understand the different scoring areas on a dartboard. Each player in a game of 501 darts begins the game with 501 points (thus the name), and the object is to work one’s way down to 0 points in order to win the game—exactly 0 points. Each player throws three darts per turn, usually aiming for the highest scoring triangles on the board (20, 19, 18, etc.). At the end of their turn, all the point values are tallied and subtracted from the total of 501.
Let’s say Player 1 hits the 20 space with his first dart, the 9 space with his second dart, and the “triple section” of the 15 space with his third dart, for a total score of 59 points. That player would then subtract 59 points from 501, giving him a new total of 442. Then, the next player gets his turn, and the same scoring process is followed.
The goal of 501 darts is to accrue as many points as you can with each of your three-dart turns in order to reduce your total score. To accomplish this, many of the world’s most accomplished players shoot only at the high numbers on the dart board in the beginning and middle portions of the game. In fact, the REALLY good players tend to aim at the “triple” sections of those high-numbered spaces in an attempt to bring their score down rapidly.
With this strategy in mind, why would it even be necessary for a dart player to ever shoot at the lower numbers on the board? The answer: because they have to land exactly on zero to win the game. Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say a player only has 73 points left when it is his turn to shoot the darts. In order to win the game, he needs to land on exactly zero by the time he throws his last dart. Therefore, he might shoot at the triple section of 20 for 60 points, the 10 space for a total of 70 points, and the 3 space for a total of 73 points. It is this end part of the game that makes 501 so exciting to play.
Some variations of 501 make the game even more difficult, such as the variation with the “double out” rule. In this variation, a player must reach EXACTLY zero points by hitting a double section with his final dart. In other words, if a player has only 6 points left when his turn to throw comes around, he cannot win by simply throwing at the number 6 space. Instead he must aim for the double section of space number 3 (3 + 3) to accomplish this goal. If he fails, his point total stays at 6 and the turn goes over to his opponent.
801 and 301 are played in much the same way as the game of 501 is played. For example, in 301 darts each player starts with a total of 301 points and works his way down, and in 801 each player starts with 801 points, making the game last a bit longer. Because 801 is a much longer game than either 501 or 301 it is not recommended that you play this game with more than two players.
Although the game of darts known as Cricket is not a game that is traditionally played among those in the professional ranks, it is extremely popular among pub and bar players—perhaps the most oft-played of the many dart games in those particular settings due to the skill and variety involved.
In the game of Cricket there are only seven spaces on the dartboard that are in play, meaning scoring only happens on those spaces. These seven spaces are the 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and bullseye spaces.
The goal of Cricket is to hit each of these seven spaces three times. You can do this by throwing three darts into that space, hitting a triple with one dart, or hitting a double and a single in that space with two turns. If you hit the space three times before your opponent does, you can score points by continuing to throw darts at that space until your opponent also closes it out. The game of Cricket ends when the person with the most points closes all seven of their spaces—closes them by throwing three darts into each of them.
Fun and Easy Darts Games
In this second section we will highlight just a few more fun and fairly easy games that can be played using nothing but a set of darts and a dartboard.
Around the Clock
Around the Clock is an entertaining game that can be played with one to four players. It is also a great practice game because it forces you to use the entire dartboard. In Around the Clock, each player must start at the number 1 space on the board and continue throwing darts at that number until they hit it. Once they hit the number 1 space, they then move on to the number 2 space, and then to the number 3 space, and so on, until they have hit all the numbers on the board (1-20). Each player throws three darts per turn in this fun darts game.
If you are a baseball buff, you already know a standard game consists of 9 innings—and you are also well on your way to understanding this dart game. In Baseball Darts, each player gets 9 turns (or 9 innings) of 3 darts each. In the first inning, both players must shoot all of their darts at the number 1 space, keeping track of how many they landed in that space (0, 1, 2, or 3). Then, in the second inning, this same process is followed, only instead of aiming at the number 1 space; players will aim at the number 2 space, and again tally their hits. This continues throughout each of the nine frames, aiming at the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 spaces with each successive turn. At the end of the nine innings, the person with the most successful hits wins the game. If there is a tie, players must shoot at the bullseye to break that tie.
Scram is an entertaining strategy game that involves two players, one called the stopper and the other the scorer. In this game, the stopper’s role is to shoot first and he is trying to hit all of the numbers on the board, from 1 through 20, one time, in any order. Once the stopper has hit a number the scorer cannot score points on that number. Once the stopper has hit all of the numbers the scorer adds up his points and the roles are reversed. The main objective is to score as many points as possible, and in the event of a tie, players will shoot at the bullseye to determine the winner.
This game is very similar to the standard Cricket game we explained above, in that players are required to shoot at and close the 15-20 spaces and the bull’s eye. However, in this variation of the game, the player with the fewest number of points wins the game. In Cutthroat Cricket, when a player hits a number he has previously closed, but it is still open for an opponent, the points he would have received in standard Cricket instead count for his opponent. Thus, the object of the game is to close all of the numbers, 15-20 and bullseye, and accrue the LEAST amount of points. Once this is accomplished, that player will win the game. If a player has closed all of his spaces and has more points than his opponent, he must continue to throw until his opponent’s points exceed his total. If two players have the exact same number of points once all the spaces are closed, the game continues until the tie is broken.