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Basic Rules You Need to Know When Playing Darts

Updated: Feb 26

You've beaten Halo's campaign three times in a row now. If you play one more round of Monopoly, you're going to tear your hair out (or someone else's). It's clear you need a new game to take up your time, but what game offers something new and engaging without requiring you to step outside?

Well, we're glad you asked. With this guide to the basic rules of darts, you'll have a new game to school your friends and family in no time! Heck, if you get good enough, you could even take that skill to world championships and earn some prizes!

Before we get that far, let's look at what you'll need.

The Supplies You Need For Playing Darts

To play darts, the things you'll need to collect are darts and a standard dartboard. You'll want to look at brass and nickel darts when starting, as they tend to range on the cheaper side of darts. You can even customize them to represent your hobbies and interests, like your favorite football team!

If you find you're enjoying the game, you can start looking into getting tungsten or nickel/tungsten-blend darts. While they are more expensive than their brass and nickel counterparts, they don't wear down as fast and give you a more solid grip.

You can also start looking into getting more expensive shafts (the middle section of the dart) and flights (the frill-like attachments on the back), so you don't burn through darts as fast.

Next, you'll want to find a dartboard you like and hang it somewhere that's free of heavy traffic (after all, you don't want something getting broken or someone getting hurt due to an errant dart). Regulations state the bullseye on the dartboard should sit 5 feet and 8 inches off the ground.

As a universal darts rule, you'll also want to put a "player boundary" around 8 feet away from the dartboard. If you're using steel-tipped darts instead of soft darts, you can move the line a few inches closer to the board. Those who want to get fancy can buy an electronic dartboard, which keeps track of your score and works with a variety of different game modes.

The Universal Rules of Darts

While there are many different game modes with darts, each version shares a few core dart rules. For starters, players take turns throwing a set of 3 darts at the board. A player must finish throwing their group of three before another player can go.

The basics of scoring also remain the same. You get points for any darts that hit the board but no points for those that bounce off or miss the board entirely. Darts that hit other darts (and stick) count as a hit, but you still get no points from it.

A final universal darts rule is that all game modes have a similar way of determining turn order. If there are two players, you can call a coin flip. Otherwise, have each person take a turn throwing one dart at the board. Whoever gets closest to the bullseye (the center of the board) goes first. Now that you know universal darts rules and regulations, let's look into some specific darts games. 

301 and 501 Darts Rules

When people ask you to play a game of darts, chances are they want to play 501, which is the "regular" (and tournament-sanctioned) version of the game so knowing 501 darts rules is crucial. To start, every player receives a score value of 501. Then, their goal is to be the first player to get their score down to 0 by taking away points based on where their dart hits the board. 

If your dart hits a white space, you earn points equal to the number at the far end of the space (ranges from 1 to 20). So, for example, hitting the ring at the outside of the board gives you 2x the assigned number, while hitting the inner ring gives you 3x points. 

But what about the bullseye? Well, if you hit the exact center of the bullseye (the double bull), you earn 50 points, while the larger ring surrounding the center (the single bull) nets you 25 points. 

Things Can Get Tricky When Learning How to Play Darts

However, the rules of darts are not as simple as reducing your score to 0. To win, you need to land your dart in either the double ring or the bullseye for your final throw. In addition, if you either go into the negatives or end up with a score of 1, your score resets back to it was at the beginning of the turn and you have to wait for your next turn to try again. 

Professional darts games will also require you to get a double or bullseye to start the match as well as end it.

Each game is called a leg, and standard darts matches require you to win 3 out of 5 legs to secure the overall victory. 

But what if you don't have the time for a full 501 game? In that case, you can try 301, which operates under the same darts rules as 501 but with only 301 points to get rid of instead.

Bonus Game Modes

Another darts ruleset you can try is called Killer. To start, everyone gets three lives and throws a dart at the board with their non-dominant hand to determine what number they are assigned for the game. After that, you're trying to hit the double ring for your assigned number. 

Once you've got that, you become a Killer, aiming to hit the double rings for other players. Each hit takes away one of their lives, but hitting your double by mistake costs you a life—the last man alive wins. 

If you want to use more of the board in your game, try playing Around the World. In this mode, the goal is to hit every number from 1 to 20 in numerical order. The player who completes the sequence first is the winner.

The bullseye does nothing in this mode. There are also no bonuses for hitting the double or triple rings of a number. 

One-Shot Wonder

Now that you have this guide to the rules of darts, you're ready to go out and start racking up the wins today! If you're just learning how to play darts and are looking to get quality dart supplies to begin playing, shop our dart boards online today.

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