Compleat Gamester Inc

General Rules of Darts

  • Each turn consists of throwing three darts
  • Both feet must be behind the throw line until the dart has been thrown
  • Darts that bounce out by contacting the “Spider” or dividing wires do not score and cannot be re-thrown on a steel tip dartboard but if the electronic dartboard scores the dart it will count.
  • Darts accidentally dropped can be picked up and played
  • If a dart falls out of the dartboard during a turn, the dart is disqualified and the points it would have scored do not count (steel tip only)
  • The point of the dart must touch the dartboard to be scored on a steel tip board but if the score registers on an electronic dartboard the score counts.
  • The player always removes his/her darts from the board after their turn and the score has been recorded

Determining who begins the game

To determine who starts any game it is customary for each player to throw one dart at the bulls-eye with the closest dart deciding who will begin the game. This is referred to as “diddling for the middle” an English expression or throwing for Cork (another name for the bulls-eye). If both players score a single bulls-eye this is considered a tie and both players re-throw. The same holds true if both players score a double bulls-eye. If both darts are outside the bulls-eye then the player with the closest dart begins the game. This is the only time a dart from each opposing player remains in the board at the same time. When playing a friendly set of games against the same opponent, the loser of the previous game begins the next game. This is called “mugs away” and comes from patrons in the pub playing friendly games for a pint. The loser begins the next game, as the winner is busy drinking the spoils of his winning game hence bottoms up and “mugs away”. A coin toss can also be used to determine who will begin the game.



Steel tip – scoring is usually done by hand and written on a scoreboard or score sheets

Soft tip – This is where the soft tip game has the advantage; the computer programmed dartboard scores and does the math after each dart is thrown.



Steel tip - Darts that bounce out by contacting the “Spider” (a name given to the dividing wires as it looks like a spider’s web) are out of play and do not count.

Soft tip - Because of the physical make up of the dartboard, bounce-out darts are a little more frequent but players have the advantage of the electronic sensitivity of the matrix and bounced out darts record a score. The score that is recorded by the machine is considered correct and will count.


The Games

There are many different games that can be played on a dartboard. The most popular games being played today in homes, pubs, organized leagues and tournaments are the “01” family of games and “Cricket”.

In the United States Cricket seems to be the game of choice however all of your organized leagues and tournaments have multiple events with 301, 501 both as singles events or team events



Even though league & tournament play has equally as many ’01 games (301 & 501) in their format, cricket is the most popular game played in America both at home and in the pubs. Cricket is one game that has an element of strategy thus, if a shrewd approach is employed, a lesser skilled player, on occasion, may come out on the winning side.

The object of the game is to score three of each target number 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and three bulls-eyes. Scoring inside the triple ring counts as three and inside the double ring counts as two. A number is considered “closed” when three marks of that particular number have been scored. The first person to close all the numbers including bulls-eye and is either tied or ahead on points is the winner.

Numbers can be played at any time, but are usually played in descending order, starting with twenty.


Scoring Cricket

Steel tip

The typical scoreboard will list all of the Cricket numbers that will be in play. Each dart that scores in an open number (any number that has not been marked for a score) is represented by a backward slash “ \ ” placed next to that number. A second mark is a forward slash “/” making an X. The third score is represented by a circle surrounding the X making this number closed or protected. If one scores in the double or triple ring that scores as 2 marks or 3 marks respectively.


Soft tip

Depending on the machine that is being used, the cricket marks can be three LED lights, a single light with three different colors and with some of the more sophisticated machines the full representation, with a series of lights, of the slashes, X’s and circle.


Scoring Points

Once a player has closed a number (three marks) then points can be scored on that number if their opponent has not closed the number. Closing a number can be both offensive, to score points, or defensive, to prevent the scoring of your opponents points.


Ending the Game

If Player A has closed all of their numbers but has fewer points than their opponent, the game will continue until Player A has matched or bettered their opponents score or Player B closes the remainder of their numbers and maintains the higher or the same total points.


Simple Cricket

The object of the game is the first player to score three marks in each target number first, including bulls-eye wins. No points are involved. Although it is a much simpler game and may be viewed as a good game for beginners, it is basically a game of chase where the better player almost always wins.


301 / 501

The “01” family of games are generally all played the same way with the exception of the starting score. The object of these games is to have a starting number (301, 501,) and subtract your turn’s score cumulatively until you reach zero exactly.



Steel tip

The game 301 is popular as a league game and is often played as a singles match (individuals competing rather than teams). Because the starting total is low this game is played primarily double start, double finish. Double start means that before you start subtracting from 301 points you must first score a dart in the outer double ring. Once this is done the very next dart can be thrown directly at the twenty wedges. The double finish means that to reduce the score to exactly zero the winning dart must land in a double segment ( Player A has 32 points left – double 16 is the winning shot)


Soft tip

Most electronic machines allow you to select the game and variation you wish to play. In league play straight start (not requiring a double) straight finish is common. More skilled players can select straight start with a double finish (requiring the winning game shot to be in a double segment). For the most skilled players, you can select the challenging game of double start, double finish. The game of 301 is popular as a league game and is often played as a team game.



The game 501 is the game played in most professional and amateur tournaments and in social settings at home and the neighborhood pub. The object is the same as in all “01” games; the first to reach zero exactly wins.


Steel tip

To begin this game one can immediately shoot at the highest number and start scoring as this game typically begins without the requirement of having to first score a doubled number. In order to finish, the score must be reduced to exactly to zero on a doubled number. This is commonly known as straight start, double finish.


Soft tip

Most electronic machines allow you to select the game and variation you wish to play. This game is almost always played with a straight start but may be played with a straight or doubled finish. This is popular as a league and tournament game and is quite often played as a team event.


Scoring 301 / 501 Games

Steel tip

Scoring for the traditional steel tip game is done by hand and written on a scoreboard or a score sheet. Scoring ‘01 games are easy and will quickly sharpen your math skills especially subtraction. All numbers are in play but the most targeted numbers are the twenty and nineteen, the highest numbers on the board that will bring down the score. After the first round is thrown, the total score of the three darts is generally written down towards the outside of the scoreboard or score sheet with the remaining totals for both players written towards the middle. All subsequent rounds of darts are marked in the same way.


Soft tip

Scoring on an electronic dartboard has the advantage of the programmed computer recording and doing the entire math for you.



Busting is when you exceed the total you have remaining, reach zero without landing on a double or leave one point left (not possible to end the game as there is no double to finish on) When this occurs, your turn is immediately over whether you have thrown one, two or three darts and your score returns to what it was before your turn started.


Out Chart

When your total score is less than 200 points, there are mathematical combinations of triple, double and single numbers that a player can score to finish a game quickly. Only the most skilled players can achieve these combinations with any regularity. These combinations are referred to as “out shots”. There is a table (called an out chart) that can be used for suggested finishes and are available in two dart charts (winning with only two darts) or three dart charts (winning with three darts).

T – Triple, D – Double, S – Single, B – Bulls-eye
Reading the Out Chart of suggested finishes is easy when you understand the letters above and what they stand for. Many of these charts are posted on walls near the dartboard in pubs to aid league players in learning their out shots and to speed up play
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June 26, 2020   View Cart
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