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Darts is a form of throwing sport where darts are thrown at a circular target (dartboard) 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 activity, darts is a traditional pub game, commonly played in the United Kingdommarker (the first country to officially recognise darts as a sport), across the Commonwealth, the Netherlandsmarker, Irelandmarker, the Scandinavian countries, the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker and elsewhere.


Before the First World War, pubs in the United Kingdom had dartboards made from solid blocks of wood, usually elm. They had to be soaked overnight to heal the holes made from the darts, and it was a messy business for the publican, although darts was a popular game. This changed when a company called Nodor, whose primary business was making modeling clay (which has no odor, hence the name Nodor) made a dartboard. Their model of dartboard was not a great success until someone came up with the idea of making a dartboard from sisal fibres. Small bundles of sisal fibres of the same length were bundled together. The bundles were then compressed into a disk and bound with a metal ring. It was an instant success, as the darts made little or no damage to the board - they just parted the fibres when they entered the board; this type of board was more durable and required little maintenance.

Modern dartboards are made of sisal fibers; cheap boards are sometimes made of coiled paper. However, several types of sisal fibre are used in dartboards today, originating from East Africa, Brazil and China.

A regulation board is 17¾ inches (451 mm) in diameter and is divided into 20 sections. Each section is separated with metal wire or a thin band of sheet metal. The best dartboards have the thinnest wire, so that the darts have less chance of hitting a wire and bouncing out. The numbers indicating the various scoring sections of the board are also 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 dartboard is hung so that the bullseye is from the floor: eye-level for a six-foot (183 cm) person. The oche (IPA: /'ɒki/) - the line behind which the throwing player must stand - is generally from the face of the dartboard measured horizontally. This is the recognized world standard as set by the World Darts Federation and is used in most areas. However there may be a measurement error (such as measuring from the wall, rather than using a plumb line to measure from the board face). The diagonal distance from the bull's eye to the oche will be , when horizontal measurement from the dart board face is not easily done.

The London 5 board or narrow 5's board set up is slightly different from the standard board. The height is set at 5 feet 6 inches to the center of the bull and the oche is at 9 feet from the face of the board.

The origin of the term "oche" is explained by various theories:

The first theory surmises that there was a brewery called "Hockey and Sons" or "S. Hockey and Sons" in the West Country of England. This brewery supplied bars with bottled beer, and the crates used to deliver the bottles were exactly 3 feet long. One English pub owner then made the 9-feet rule by using three "Hockey & Sons" beer crates (3 x 3 feet) as a distance marker. Many people also believed this is how the phrase "toeing the hockey" came about, which added more validity to the theory. However, according to a statement made by the Brewery History Society in the 1990s, no records of a brewery called "Hockey & Sons" can be found.

The second theory traces the term's origin to darts competitions held in the 1920s by an English newspaper, "News of the World". Allegedly , this newspaper was the first to use the word "hockey" for the throwing line in their tournament rules. "Hockey" is derived from the Old English word "hocken" which meant "to spit" . It is said that spitting competitions were held in the bars of English public houses, and that the "hockey line" was determined by the length that a given player could spit from a position with his back to the dartboard.


The dartboard may have its origins in the cross-section of a tree. An old name for a dartboard is a 'butt', which might imply that the bottoms of wine barrels were the original dartboards; but the word in fact comes from the French word butte, meaning target. In particular, the Yorkshire and Perrigo Manchester Log End boards differ from the standard board in that they have no treble only double and bullseye, The Perrigo Manchester board being of a smaller diameter, with a playing area of only 25cm across with double and bull areas measuring just 4mm. The London Fives board is another variation. This has only 12 equal segments numbered 20,5,15,10,20,5,15,10,20,5,15,10 with the doubles and trebles being a quarter of an inch wide.

There is speculation that the game originated among soldiers throwing short arrows at the bottom of the cask 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 standard numbering plan 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 penalise 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. Many different layouts would penalise a player more than the current setup; however, the current setup actually does the job rather efficiently.There have been several mathematical papers published that consider the "optimal" dartboard.


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.

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, scores 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 the points value of that section.
  • The central circle is divided into a green outer ring worth 25 points (known as "outer", "outer bull", or "iris") 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. The term "bull's ring" usually means just the green outer ring.
  • 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. Despite some house rules, hitting the inside of a wire number around the edge of the board does not score any points.

The highest score possible with 3 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.

Playing darts

The sport 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 0. 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 less than 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 requires placing a final dart between the legs of the number 11 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 their score.

Other games that are commonly played differ in their scoring methods. These include "Round the Clock", "Jumpers", "Killer" and the more complicated "Cricket" and "Tactics".

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 involves targeting all areas of the board, a skill which is essential when finishing a classic leg.

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.

Professional organizations

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 Netherlandsmarker. The BDO is a member of the World Darts Federation (WDF) (founded 1976), along with organizations in some 60 other countries worldwide. The BDO originally organised a number of the more prestigious British tournaments with a few notable exceptions such as the News of the World Championship and the national events run under the auspices 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). The PDC tournaments have a considerable following, and have considerabely higher TV viewing figures than that of the BDO, more commonly known as the Bad Darts Organisation

The PDC tournaments often have higher prize money and feature the leading player in the history of the game, 14-time World Champion Phil Taylor. The highly successful BDO player Raymond van Barneveld switched to the PDC and won the PDC World Championship at his first attempt in 2007.

Professional competitions

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 slightly 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 World Masters 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 are the World Championship, Premier League, UK Open, Las Vegas Desert Classic, World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix. All of these are broadcast live on Sky Sports television in the UK. They also hold PDC Pro Tour events and smaller category events around the UK. As of 2007 the PDC have introduced two new televised major tournaments - the US Open (to be broadcast on Challenge TV) and the Grand Slam of Darts (to be screened on ITV).

There are two Dutch independently organised major tournaments the International Darts League, and the World Darts Trophy which as from 2007 feature a mix of BDO and PDC players. Both organisations allocate rankings to the tournaments.

The WDF World Cup for national teams and a singles tournament has been played biennially since 1977. The WDF also organise the Europe Cup. Shirley Welker is currently the reigning WDF Champion.

Televised darts

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.

Over the next decade darts coverage 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 meant they had to cut back on darts coverage but despite this they still showed the World Masters until 1988. 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 WDC/PDC in 1992/93, darts gradually returned to television with Sky Television covering the new organization's World Championship and World Matchplay events from 1994. Sky's coverage continued to increase throughout the 1990s, with more new events added. The PDC's World Championship, Premier League, UK Open, Las Vegas Desert Classic, World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix are all televised live on Sky.

The BBC finally began to expand their darts coverage in 2001 when they added the World Masters to their portfolio. 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.

Darts has continued to grow again on television and there now several major tournaments broadcast in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Dutch station, Sport One, DSF in Germany and several other tv stations across the globe also broadcast the PDC events.

In Europe, Eurosport broadcast the Lakeside World Championships, having signed a three-year contract in 2006, and that year also broadcast the Finland Open, the BDO British Internationals, the BDO England Open and the BDO British Open. There has been no Eurosport coverage of Open events since 2007.

In the Netherlands, SBS6 has broadcast the Lakeside (since 1998) and the Dutch Open. They also shown the International Darts League and World Darts Trophy, however they are now defunct. RTL 5 broadcast the Dutch Grand Masters in 2005. Some of these tournaments can also be watched on the internet for free using a live stream, depending on contractual restrictions (external links: SBS Streams and Watchdarts.com stream)

The PDC has also tried to break into the television market in the United Statesmarker by introducing the World Series of Darts in 2006. It had a $1 million prize to showcase professional darts in the United Statesmarker. Unfortunately the programme was not a ratings success and was taken from its peak time broadcast slot on ESPN after just a few weeks. The tournament was replaced with a US Open event in 2007 which was screened in the UK on digital television channel Challenge TV, with Nuts TV showing the 2008 tournament.

ITV returned to darts coverage in November 2007, showing the inaugural Grand Slam of Darts - its first major darts tournament coverage in almost twenty years. They also added a second PDC event in October 2008 with the new European Championship. Setanta Sports have also televised darts tournaments for the first time during 2008 by showing several BDO Open events and the new League of Legends.


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, Englandmarker 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 with many of the big bookmaking companies sponsoring events (particularly within the PDC). Sky Bet (World Grand Prix, Premier League), Stan James (World Matchplay), Blue Square (UK Open) and Ladbrokes (World Championship) are all title sponsors of major PDC events.

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.

Famous players

For a list of famous players' nicknames see: List of darts players nicknames

World Champions

Current World Champions
BDO: Ted Hankey The Count
PDC: Phil Taylor The Power
Women's: Francis Hoenselaar

Multiple World Champions
14 Phil Taylor The Power (12 PDC, 2 BDO)
7 Trina Gulliver The Golden Girl
5 Eric Bristow Crafty Cockney
5 Raymond van Barneveld Barney/ The Man (4 BDO, 1 PDC)
3 John Part Darth Maple (1 BDO, 2 PDC)
3 John Lowe Old Stoneface
2 Ted Hankey The Count
2 Jocky Wilson
2 Dennis Priestley The Menace (1 BDO, 1 PDC)
Former single-time BDO World Champions
Mark Webster
Martin Adams Wolfie
Bob Anderson The Limestone Cowboy
Steve Beaton Magnum-PI/ The Bronze Adonis
Richie Burnett The Prince of Wales
Keith Deller The Fella / The Milky Bar Kid
Andy Fordham The Viking
Jelle Klaasen The Matador
Leighton Rees
Les Wallace McDanger
John Walton John Boy

World Rankings

  • As of June 8, 2009.

Ranking Player Ranking Player
1 Phil Taylor 17 Peter Manley
2 James Wade 18 Robert Thornton
3 Raymond van Barneveld 19 Denis Ovens
4 John Part 20 Mark Dudbridge
5 Terry Jenkins 21 Vincent van der Voort
6 Mervyn King 22 Roland Scholten
7 Adrian Lewis 23 Kirk Shepherd
8 Alan Tabern 24 Wayne Jones
9 Dennis Priestley 25 Jelle Klaasen
10 Ronnie Baxter 26 Andy Smith
11 Colin Lloyd 27 Barrie Bates
12 Wayne Mardle 28 Tony Eccles
13 Colin Osborne 29 Chris Mason
14 Kevin Painter 30 Michael van Gerwen
15 Andy Hamilton 31 Alex Roy
16 Mark Walsh 32 Co Stompé

BDO Mens

Ranking Player Ranking Player
1 Tony O'Shea =8 Joey ten Berge
2 Scott Waites 10 Alan Norris
3 Darryl Fitton 11 Scott Mitchell
4 Ted Hankey 12 Martin Atkins
5 Martin Adams 13 Stephen Bunting
6 Ross Montgomery 14 John Walton
7 Steve West 15 Willy van de Wiel
=8 Dave Prins 16 Mark Barilli

BDO Women

Ranking Player Ranking Player
1 Trina Gulliver 10 Sue Biddle
2 Irina Armstrong 11 Carol Forwood
3 Julie Gore 12 Carla Molema
4 Tricia Wright 13 Robin Curry
5 Francisca Hoenselaar 14 Zoe Jones
6 Dee Bateman 15 Corrine Hammond
7 Karin Krappen =16 Deta Hedman
8 Lisa Ashton =16 Louise Carroll
9 Karen Lawman 18 John Chalmers

Other famous and notable players

Martin Atkins The Assassin
Joey ten Berge The Entertainer
Andy Boulton X-Factor
Stephen Bunting The Bullet
Dave Chisnall Cheza
Steve Coote Magic
Dick van Dijk The Player
Albertino Essers The Sensation
Peter Evison The Fen Tiger
Darryl Fitton The Dazzler
Bobby George Bobby Dazzler / Mister Glitter
Shaun Greatbatch 9 Dart
Robbie Green Kong
Paul Hanvidge Polly Boy
John Henderson Hendo
Edwin Max Mad Max
Ross Montgomery The Boss
Glenn Moody Mr Muscle
Phill Nixon Nixy
Alan Norris Chuck
Tony O'Shea Silverback
Davy Richardson The Face
Gary Robson Robbo
Niels de Ruiter The Excellent Dude
Robert Wagner The Magician
Garry Thompson The Cougar
Mike Veitch The Cat
Scott Waites Scotty 2 Hotty
Tony West The Tornado
Brian Woods Pecker

Gary Anderson The Flying Scotsman
Barrie Bates Batesy
Ronnie Baxter The Rocket
Jamie Caven Jabba
Mark Dudbridge Flash
Tony Eccles The Viper
Andy Fordham The Viking
Andy Hamilton The Hammer
Terry Jenkins The Bull
Wayne Jones The Wanderer
Mervyn King The King
Adrian Lewis Jackpot
Colin Lloyd Jaws
Steve Maish Mr. Magic
Peter Manley One Dart
Wayne Mardle Hawaii 501
Chris Mason Mace the Ace
Kevin McDine SuperMc
Wes Newton Av It
Colin Osborne The Wizard
Denis Ovens The Heat
Kevin Painter The Artist
Roland Scholten The Flying Dutchman
Kirk Shepherd Karate Kid
Andy Smith The Pie Man
Co Stompé The Matchstick
Alan Tabern The Saint
Robert Thornton The Thorn
Vincent van der Voort Greased Lightning
Remco van Eijden Toppertje
Michael van Gerwen Mighty Mike
James Wade The Machine
Mark Walsh Walshie
Alan Warriner-Little The Iceman
Mark Webster Webby
Simon Whitlock The Wizard

Former Players
Tony Brown
Richie Davies Lamb Chop
Alan Evans
Mike Gregory
Rod Harrington The Prince of Style
Paul Lim The Singapore Slinger(made the 1st World Ch'ship 9-darter)
Marshall James
Rick Ney
Dave Whitcombe

Other darts games and variants

There are a number of regional variations on the standard rules and scoring systems. Round the Clock is a variation that involves hitting the numbers in sequence. Jumpers is a variation played in Asia.

There are also a number of games regarding placing pictures of famous people onto dart boards.


A regional variant still played in some parts of the East End of London. The board has fewer, larger segments, all numbered either 5, 10, 15 or 20. Players play down from 505 rather than 501, and stand further (9 ft) away from the board.

American darts

American Darts, despite the name, is a regional USA variant of the game (most U.S. dart players play the traditional games described above). This style of dart board is most often found in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New York state.

Darts cricket



Shanghai is a darts game of accuracy. Hitting doubles and triples is paramount to victory. This game may be played with 2 to infinite number of players. The standard version is played in 7 rounds. In round one players throw their darts aiming for the 1 section, round 2, the 2 section and so on until round 7. Standard scoring is used, and doubles and triples are counted. Only hits on the wedge for that round are counted. The winner is the person who has the most points at the end of seven rounds (1-7); or you can score a Shanghai and win instantly. To score a Shanghai you have to hit a triple, a double and single of the number that is in play.

See also


  1. http://hammersdarts.wsnw.net and http://eastlondondartsleague.co.uk
  2. [1] Bangkok Jumpers League
  3. East London Advertiser Fives still alive in darts
  4. [2] Dart Games: Shanghai
Dart board history

External links

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