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Darts & Scoring Explained

The World Darts Championship is here and it's all eyes on the Alexandra Palace where the likes of Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith toe the oche.

Just before you run to Argos to collect your dartboard and attempt to replicate the 180s and raucous celebrations of the top arrow-smiths at Alexandra Palace, it's important to understand the rules and scoring of the sport. 

Here we take you through how the game works and the difference between doubles, trebles, bullseyes and bounce outs. 

What is the correct height for a dartboard?

The important piece of information here is that the height of a dartboard is measured from the floor to the centre of the bullseye. 

That is set at 173cm (5 feet, 8 inches). It's vital that the measurements are correct and the height is calculated from the exact centre of the bullseye. 

Darts is a muscle memory sport and the most successful players are able to replicate the exact movements with little to no variations time and time again. An out-of-sync board requires a recalibration of the throw and that can lead to inconsistency. 

'Bully Boy' Michael Smith is renowned for fast, accurate and monotonous barrages on the treble 20 segment. Smith has recently won his first ever major TV title and is 5/1 to be crowned world champion for the first time on 2nd January.

How far do you stand from a dartboard? 

The standard distance is 237cm (7 foot, 9.25 inches) from the front of your dartboard to the oche line. 

The majority of players will throw with their foot pushed up against a grounded oche or their toe at the front of the line, but it's not uncommon to see players stand to the left or right or even further behind the throw line. 

Some local leagues have traditionally allowed ladies to play from a 7 foot, 6 inches, but professional darts is standardised at the 237cm distance. 

How to play 501 Darts

Simply put, darts is a race from 501 points to zero. Each player takes alternating turns throwing three darts at the board, and the more points you score per visit, the quicker your score will decrease and the more chance you have of winning the match. 

The standard dartboard is divided into 20 numbered sections, scoring from one to 20 points, with a bullseye and outer bull in the center of the segments. 

Each number has a double and treble area, which doubles or trebles the corresponding number. The bullseye is worth 50 points and the outer 25. 

The highest score possible with one dart is 60 and that comes by throwing a treble 20. The majority of professional darts players will aim for the treble 20, with all three darts, and if successful the maximum score on a dart board is 180. 

However, it's not as simple as just hitting high scores. A game of 501 has to be won on a double, that will land you precisely on zero. For example a score of 40 would require a double 20 or a score of two would require a double one.

If when aiming for 40 with your first throw, the dart strays into the single 20 below, you can then re-aim for a double 10 to score an exact 20. However, you cannot collect more points than what you have remaining and this is known as busting. 

When you bust you automatically forfeit that turn, your opponent will come to the oche and your score will return to what it was prior to the first dart of the busting visit. 

The bullseye is the highest target you can double-out on, with it being worth 50 points and the highest checkout (treble 20, treble 20, bullseye) 170 is the biggest finish that can be made. 

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Know your score - working it all out

Mathematics also plays an important role in darts. It's vital to maximise your chances of obtaining a shot at a winning double and it's important that those shots are at the biggest possible target. 

A score of 50 can be finished with one dart at the bullseye, but that segment is considerably smaller than the doubles on the outside of the board. 

On a 50 outshot professional players will hit a single number first, usually ten or 18 depending on their preferred finishing double to set up a shot at either double 20 or double 16. 

Combination finishes also need to be considered. It's pretty straightforward to remember that a finish of 110 can be taken out with a treble 20, single 10 and double 20, but what should you do if the first dart lands in single 20? 

There are a whole myriad of finishing combinations on a dart board and it's key to consider the best way to approach those checkouts, both prior, and during your visit to the board. 

There's a good chance that you will hit a fair few scores of 26 and 11 on your way to a first 180, but it's important to remember that even Mighty Michael van Gerwen, 5/2 to be crowned world champion for the fourth time on 2nd January, had to start somewhere.

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