How To Play Darts: A Gentleman’s Game

Darts is one of the most popular games and what we at ManMade consider a true gentlemen’s game. There’s nothing quite like meeting up with some friends at a pub or in their basement and throwing darts while having a few drinks and catching up. But unless your friend is the DD (designated dart-expert) then no one reallllly knows what they’re doing other than trying to hit the bullseye. Don’t worry, we’ll fix that for you.

Why is darts a gentleman’s game? Well, it goes back to medieval times. The first game of darts was played by knights who tossed handcrafted darts at a circle target to pass the time in their trenches. Next, it was introduced as a carnival game using fléchettes. Following that, the English created several variations of dartboards until they finally nailed down the Standard dartboard. The standard dartboard is the dartboard that we use today. Believe it or not, the dartboard has remained unaltered since 1920. Why mess with perfection? 

Dart Board Placement is Key

The rules of darts are strict and are taken very seriously, right down to the playing board’s placement. If your dartboard is off by an inch, you have already broken the rules. The Professional Dart Corporation outlines that the bullseye on the dartboard must be hung 5 feet and 8 inches from the floor. The och, which is the distance from the face of the dartboard to the toe line, should measure 7 feet and 9.25 inches. 

man with hat on backwards and a blue shirt tossing a dart at a dartboard on a brick wall
Photo Credit: Geoffrey Bressan from Pexels

How-To: Hang Your Dart Board

Luckily modern-day dartboards come included with a bracket attached on the back. The bracket groove is located at the bullseye making it easier to match and hang precisely.

Be warned that you should never hang your dartboard close to a door or glass. You should add cork or wood paneling as a backing around the board to prevent damaging your drywall. Once your support is installed, measure from the floor up and mark your spot. Secure the dartboard into a stud using screws rather than nails for extra support. Dartboards have got some weight to them. 

dart board with back board with score board and dart holders
Photo Credit: Erik McLean from Pexels

Finally, measure out the och and place a marker on the floor. I use a piece of tape for my home dartboard. 

The Point System

Now that your board is ready to go let’s freshen up on the pointing system. The dartboard is divided into 20 equal segments and a bullseye. The numbers are separated from sequence to make the game strategy more complicated.

Each section has four areas to score: two singles, one triple, and one double. If you hit a triple 6, you receive 18 points.

The bullseye on the center of the board has an outer ring called the single bull. A bullseye is worth 50 points, and a single bull is 25 points.

standard dartbaord on wood wall with dart in the bullseye
Photo Credit: Jess Tellier

Essential Dart Etiquette 

Much like golf, there are also social rules for this sport. First off, it is not appreciated to make commentary or be a distraction during play. That means no cheering or oooing and awwing. It is essential to wait until all three darts have hit the board to make a peep. Unlike hockey, you should not ever tell a player which area of the board they should be shooting next – unless you are their teammate. Just stand back, relax and give the shooter space.

man with shaved head, in blue shirt throwing a dart
Photo Credit: Pixabay by Pexels

Another essential rule is to score your points before you pull your darts off the board. This simple rule will stop a lot of arguments. It allows spectators and the opponent to see your score and confirm the accurate recording of points. Lastly, do not be a sore loser. Shaking the opponent’s hand at the end of the game is an essential close to each match. Don’t go storming off, or people will not want to play darts with you. 

Rules for 501

The most common game of darts is called 501. It’s the game that you see played by the professional on TV. It’s also the most common dart league and pub game. Using a standard dartboard, the objective is to be the first player to zero out from the starting number of 501. In simple terms, after the player has tossed three darts, they collect the total of points earned on the board and subtract the amount from the current total points. 

To score a zero, the player must finish by throwing a double. For example, if the player has 24 points remaining, the double 12 is your target. It gets trickier as the number of points falls under 20 for obvious division reasons and shortens your targets’ selection. If a player shoots below zero, their score returns to the previous amount before that round.

hands grabbing darts from dart board in dark room
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

Now that you’ve dusted up on your dart essentials consider leaning into some other games. Cricket, Killer, and Around the World are some fun and popular options to choose from. When you’re ready to up your dart game some more, check out this DIY ManMade ManCave Cricket Score Board.