A set of three darts, a dartboard, a scoreboard, and some rules and you are off and playing darts!
Darts is a fun sport to play, with many great competitors, games, and camaraderie. It can be played at home, in a bar, or at tournaments. You can buy a board and a set of darts for less than $50, and have great fun shooting.
Here is some information that I've put together, lessons I've learned, and some information that I've created because I wanted to know about something and couldn't find any info about it.
It's all my content, but the following are more in-depth pages.
I enjoy playing darts. I'm not a great player, my throws are a bit too random. Either very precise, and off-target, or accurate and scattered. I always hope that someday my throw will become more constant so that I'll be able to compete with the decent dart players.
I wrote this strategy because my throwing is occasionally good enough ... but my lack of strategy caused me to fall behind the opposition. So, I talked to a lot of people, and also developed my own ideas to be competitive. I couldn't find info like this on the WWW, so I wrote about it to help other dart players in a similar situation.
My advice and what not to do and a bunch of other things here is the wrong advice ... most of the time ... for a player who shoots great and gets out. The truth is about darts is that the better shooter will win. As a dart player you have to accept that; the only way to win is to get better. even a great player who is slumping can take advantage of these things to take pressure off of themselves and get back in the game.
I don't shoot that well. I don't average 50 PPD -- I get about 13. I don't have a 4 MPR cricket game -- it's around 1.3. I have developed, asked people, gotten advice, and looked around for strategies that are (for me) the right thing to do in the long run. By watching games I find that I'm not alone -- those same strategies would help out a player similar in skill to me. Or help out a much better shooter when things aren't going right.
Even though you are being out shot, A better strategy will always help. If the better shooter falters a round, playing the right strategy will keep you in the game and give you a chance to win. Even if it doesn't win the current game, it puts the numbers on your side -- I believe it's a long term win to think about these tools and use them.
Darts are a game I've enjoyed off-and-on. Playing darts is fun, but it is boring without someone else to play with. I like the plastic boards and soft-tip darts... since making a mistake in dart-throwing at home is less likely to make a hole in the wall.
I played for years with my two sets (heavy and light) of brass barrel Harrows Gyro series darts.
After I broke my right index finger in 2009 I found that I could really not throw my old darts well any more. It is like my dart throwing and release have become totally de-calibrated. I've tried many ways of shooting, and some fine people -- Steve, Jason, Todd, Norma, and probably a few others have tried helping me get my game back. Thanks Guys! Their efforts have helped quite a bit, but the problem is that I am often essentially having random throws.
I think the major difficulty is in the release -- due to the broken finger, the index finger/thumb just doesn't want to release as it used to. Heck, just gripping the dart seems random. The dart used to just sit in my hand, now it never seems to sit right. I tried looking at different darts, but they were all frustratingly similar.
One day I was at Bullseye Games talking to Mary, and she was telling me about her Bottlesen darts. I asked ... because so much of the dart material I have read says to stay far far away from them ... yet I respect her and she is throwing these supposedly bad darts. Incompatible with all accessories, non-standard, blah blah blah. Mary told me they are some of the finest darts made, and she enjoys throwing them. While waiting around I tried yet some more darts. Since Mary thought so highly of them, I just tried the different Bottlesen darts, instead of trying everything. After a while -- voila -- I found some darts which seem to fit my hand nicely and release well. The Bottlesen Gap darts basically have a groove for your thumb to sit in so I get repeatable positioning of the darts. This lets me get some repeatable throws, which is a big improvement! I don't know why people said to stay away from the Bottlesen darts, they are certainly well made and compatible!
I seem to throw my darts a bit heavy. Without the right tip I tend to either embed my darts in the dartboard OR break off tips in the dartboard. I have from mid-90s some "Big" cone tips that last me for near forever. I've tried newer tips, but I often break them off in less than 5 throws; it is quite frustrating. The modern "cone" tips have a much smaller cone and are weaker, they just don't work with my throwing style. Someone suggested Tufflex tips as an alternative. They do last longer than the small-cone tips. Not a lot longer -- to give you an example, when I ran out of big cone tips, I tried a bunch on the one dart which had broken the big-cone tip. That dart has gone through more small cone tips (both long and short) than I want to think about. The Tufflex tips last for a while before they break, usually a game. The 1990 era "big cone" tips on the other darts are still not broken yet, and I was playing with them in the mid 90s! Fortunately Kristen @ Bullseye has found some of the "big cone" tips for me, and I hope they are as robust as the old ones!
There are some dartboards which have computer interfaces on them so you can use them with home computers.
The original at-home online dart game is Web Cam Darts, which is sponsored by Winmau, one of the big steel-tip board manufacturers. People setup their steel-tip board, lighting, and a few cameras so the opponent can see the board.
Typical Setup is:
Basically you want a well-lit dartboard with a camera pointed at it so it has a good view. An optional 2nd camera can show the bull (and typically 20 segment) in detail. You want webcams with good lenses to show detail and lighting, but too good a web cam can be a problem -- HD requires a lot of bandwidth. Also, doing video compression on the fly is expensive ... some cameras put LQ video out directly, which makes things easier. A mic on a web cam (and speakers on the computer) isn't a bad option, perhaps you can talk to your opponent instead of typing.
The national leagues that the local Madison vendors sponsor are run by the NDA. It seems a pretty decent organization, except for the draconian rules on dress at tournaments.
XXX more like top-level rule making bodies, etc.
XXX more like large dart associations with their own thing going on, but not national or regional level.
League Play is really fun for darts. You'll play LOTS AND LOTS of dart games! It's a great way to get out, meet lots of people, visit different bars, and get better at shooting darts.
Check out my section on Pool Leagues to get a good idea of things to look out when you are playing leagues. Most of the stuff there applies to dart leagues just as it does to pool leagues.
In my area, the NDA is the common dart organization.
As far as playing time goes, the two most common formats that I see around here are the 4 person:
I see most dart matches in the 17 game format to take about 3-4 hours to play, and the 13 game format takes about 2-3 hours to play. Wait -- that's roughly 4 games an hour, which is about the same estimate as I was using for pool!
The truth is that the skill of the better team is the deciding factor in the length of time it takes to play dart matches. Since you are always shooting at an empty board (with no safety potential), the match just goes long enough for the better team to get their win. But... Just like pool: On a night when no one is shooting well, even the pros, it can take a really long time to shoot out a match of darts!
Thanks a bunch to people for making my darting better!
It's a great environment here in Madison to learn world class darts, and I thank everyone for their help! We have like 5 of the top 8 dart shooters in the world living w/in an hour of Madison... as a result the leagues and competition around here are killer!
Tom & Liz got me throwing darts in the first place. While drinking Margaritas and Cervezas at Pedro's!
Later Thanks to Laps (Steve), Jason, Todd and Normes for working on fixing my dart throwing after I broke my index finger.
Bullseye Mary is responsible for getting me to look at some other darts instead of staying with the darts I first started throwing with. They throw OK, but I throw better with better darts!
Laps talked a lot with me about dart strategy, which gave me a solid core of knowledge and also got me interested in starting to look at darts as a game of strategy instead of just a contest of throwing accuracy. Shooting against Laps on a regular basis made it necessary for me to have a strategy in the first place!
Jeremy helped me understand some of the tricky sections of rules and strategy when I was asking about "why didn't you do that" in situations.
Matt and I had an interesting conversation about flights & shafts which got me to thinking about a easier way to explain some of the dart flying characteristics.
Bullseye Matt told me about higher pro-level strategies and where to find information about them after I asked him to review my strategy.
Kayla has made me refine some of my strategies, sometimes through conversation and sometimes just through watching her play. She also has suggested multiple ways to fix my broken throwing style. Some help, but I'm still trying to work the kinks out.
Ben pointed out that I had so much body english that it looked like I was shotputting when throwing darts. He pointed out a couple of stance variations to help me out ... which got me looking at stance as an issue again, instead of just leaving it alone. He also reminded me to keep still!
Talking with Kayla about Chasing gave me a different viewpoint than I had before on the matter. That talk, and watching some games where people violated my own strategy led me to develop the concept of chasing from the lead. I hadn't even thought about before I'd seen people not follow my strategy and suffer from it.
Gary has tried a lot to fix my recently re-broken dart throwing. He keeps on pointing out that my back-stroke is too fast. He's right -- I have the same problem in pool, and have been working forever to fix it. Flip side is that I have a problem controlling forward throw speed by doing a slow draw-back. I can fire off a magazine of three darts at the board boom-boom-boom, and often get them within a bull of each other. If only I can reconcile some of this stuff and make it work for me... aiee!
Brian encouraged me to actually play competitive games online ... instead of just practicing against myself. I only win about 20% of my games .. but I'm usually shooting someone >= 0.5 MPR or >= 5.00 PPD better than me!
Carl introduced me to the intricacies of dart strategy based on steel-tip instead of soft-tip throwing. It's a different way of throwing, and I have learned a new set of trade-offs in darts due to it. Carl was also crazy enough to want to play with me in a B doubles tournament after I hurt my hand/arm and couldn't play my normal game. This was crazy because I was shooting at 2/3 of my normal MPR/PPPD, and even then, my existing (1.00 MPR + his MPR was over the C+ cap of 4.00 MPR. It wasn't a walk-away for the opponents. We were out in two, but one game went all the way to the hill, with either team capable of winning. The second match had an ultra-long high-point cricket game that was finally decided by a wasted round by me, but just that closely!
Watching some of the big players throw has also been interesting. By big players I mean the really good players. I only know a few of them to talk with, but you can pick up a lot from watching them. A lot of the big players are big players. This gives them a huge advantage -- a stable firing platform, and just their forearm is moving to throw the dart. Sit down and watch some of those players shoot, they don't move at all -- just like a good pool player doesn't. Their arm is the only thing that moves -- the form is superb. It's also a great argument that you need to be in good physical shape to be a good dart player!
It's all Kayla's fault that I can hit bullseyes.
We were shooting summer league and all she had to
"The bull's over there, Joe!"
and that got me seriously shooting for the bull, instead of trying
to work around my problems that I was avoiding.
Nobody else could talk me into it, because I was just not hitting
it, and was trying my best to get around that problem.
One little person who I respect so much telling me that and...
I can hit bulls now.
It's all her fault -- really!!!
The simple truth of it all is that the only reason I play darts competitively is because of Kayla. Without her I might have just shot a league for fun; I just shot darts for fun. Talking with her so much about darts, working out techniques and strategies, explaining what was doing wrong, in her opinion. Trying to improve so that I could hope be good enough to play with her in tournaments or leagues. Her influence is why I really started to play competitive darts.
Dan and Holly Jo are good folks. They have solid strategy which work; playing against Holly really points out the importance of pointing - it can get you a comeback from a big hole if you do it right. Watching Dan shoot the master's league lets you really see how you must fine tune your game to maximize your chance to win -- you don't take chances on stuff, you just shoot quality all the time and it pays in spades.
I can mention a long list of players who I've shot with or against who've helped me out in so many ways. Some I can name in particular are B-Dubs, Dante, Ian, John, Steve W. and JFK. Usually they help by encouraging me, or by trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong, or trying to give me insights on what I can do to I can get better. Several have also have put up (or have been stuck) with me as a partner in competition ... and tried like hell to shoot for two people when I was off my game... or by me trying to shoot my ass off to keep us alive when they weren't hitting stuff! :-)