Darts in a dartboard
Highest governing bodyWDF
Nicknamesthrowers, arrows, tungsten, dartsmith
First playedapprox 1860s United Kingdom [1]
Registered players655 WDF ranked players
679 PDPA ranked players
Team membersTeam events exist, see World Cup and PDC World Cup of Darts
Mixed genderSeparate men's & women's championship although no restrictions on women competing against men.
TypeTarget sports, Individual sport
EquipmentSet of 3 darts, dartboard
GlossaryGlossary of darts

Darts or dart-throwing is a competitive sport in which two or more players bare-handedly throw small sharp-pointed missiles known as darts at a round target known as a dartboard.[2] Darts players are sometimes termed "dartists".[3]

Points can be scored by hitting specific marked areas of the board, though unlike in sports such as archery, these areas are distributed all across the board and do not follow a principle of points increasing towards the centre of the board. Though a number of similar games using various boards and rules exist, the term "darts" usually now refers to a standardised game involving a specific board design and set of rules.

While being a professional shooting sport, darts is also a traditional pub game. Darts is commonly played in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and recreationally enjoyed across the world.



'Doubles board' in a pub in North Yorkshire, England.  Doubles boards are common in the North of England.
'Doubles board' in a pub in North Yorkshire, England. Doubles boards are common in the North of England.

The original target in the game is likely to have been a section of a tree trunk, its circular shape and concentric rings giving rise to the standard dartboard pattern in use today. An older name for a dartboard is "butt"; the word comes from the French word but, meaning "target" or "goal".[4]

The standard numbered point system is attributed to Lancashire carpenter Brian Gamlin, who devised it in 1896 to penalise inaccuracy,[5][6] though this is disputed.[7][8] Many configurations have been used, varying by time and location. In particular, the Yorkshire and Manchester Log End boards differ from the standard board in that they have no triple, only double and bullseye. The Manchester board is smaller than the standard, with a playing area of only 25 cm (9.8 in) across, with double and bull areas measuring just 4 mm (0.16 in). The London Fives board is another variation, with only 12 equal segments, with the doubles and trebles being a quarter of an inch (6.35 mm) wide.

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.[9]

Before World War I, pubs in the United Kingdom had dartboards made from solid blocks of wood, usually elm.[10][11] But darts pocked the surface of elm such that it was common for a hole to develop around the triple twenty. The other problem was that elm wood needed periodic soaking to keep the wood soft.[12]

In 1935, chemist Ted Leggatt and pub owner Frank Dabbs began using the century plant, a type of agave, to make dartboards.[13] 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. This new dartboard was an instant success. It was more durable and required little maintenance. Furthermore, darts did little or no damage to the board; they simply parted the packed fibres when they entered the board.


Main article: Dart (missile)

The earliest darts were stubs of arrows or crossbow bolts.[14] The first purpose-made darts were manufactured from solid wood, wrapped with a strip of lead for weight and fitted with flights made from split turkey feathers. These darts were mainly produced in France and became known as French darts.[15] Metal barrels were patented in 1906, but wood continued to be used into the 1950s.[14][16]

The first metal barrels were made from brass which was relatively cheap and easy to work.[15] The wooden shafts, threaded to fit the tapped barrel, were either fletched as before or designed to take a paper flight. This type of dart continued to be used into the 1970s.[15] With the widespread use of plastic, the shaft and flight came to be manufactured separately, although one-piece moulded plastic shaft and flight darts were also available.[17]



According to the Darts Regulation Authority, a regulation board is 451 mm (17+34 in) in diameter and is divided into 20 radial sections.[18] Each section is separated with metal wire or a thin band of sheet metal.[19]

Quality dartboards are still made of sisal fibres from East Africa, Brazil, or China; less expensive boards are sometimes made of cork or coiled paper.[20]

"Hope and Anchor dart club", Hope and Anchor, 20 Waterloo Street (now Macbeth Street), Hammersmith, London, UK. c.1925. NB publican Charles Fletcher (seated front row centre) with elm board
"Hope and Anchor dart club", Hope and Anchor, 20 Waterloo Street (now Macbeth Street), Hammersmith, London, UK. c.1925. NB publican Charles Fletcher (seated front row centre) with elm board
Playing darts
Playing darts


Modern darts have four parts: the points, the barrels, the shafts and the flights.[21]

The points come in two common lengths, 32 and 41 mm (1+14 and 1+58 in) and are sometimes knurled or coated to improve players' grip. Others are designed to retract slightly on impact to lessen the chance of the dart bouncing out.[22]

The barrels come in a variety of weights and are usually constructed from brass, silver-nickel, or a tungsten alloy. Brass is cheap but light and therefore brass barrels tend to be very bulky. Tungsten, on the other hand, is twice as dense as brass; thus a tungsten barrel of equivalent weight could be thirty percent smaller in diameter than a brass one.[23] Pure tungsten is very brittle, however, so an alloy is commonly used, with between 80 and 95 percent tungsten and the remainder usually nickel, iron, or copper.[23] Silver-nickel darts offer a compromise between density and cost. Barrels come in three basic shapes: cylindrical, ton, or torpedo.

The shafts are manufactured in various lengths, and some are designed to be cut to length. Shafts are generally made from plastics, nylon polymers, or metals such as aluminium and titanium; and can be rigid or flexible. Longer shafts provide greater stability and allow a reduction in flight size which in turn can lead to closer grouping; but, they also shift the weight towards the rear causing the dart to tilt backwards during flight, requiring a harder, faster throw.

The flight stabilizes the dart by producing drag, thus preventing the rear of the dart from overtaking the point.[21] Modern flights are generally made from plastic, nylon, or foil and are available in a range of shapes and sizes. The three most common shapes in order of size are the standard, the kite, and the smaller pear shape. The less surface area, the less stability but larger flights hamper close grouping. Some manufacturers have sought to solve this by making a flight long and thin but this, in turn, creates other problems such as changing the dart's centre of gravity. Generally speaking, a heavier dart will require a larger flight.[21]

The choice of barrel, shaft, and flight will depend a great deal on the individual player's throwing style. For competitive purposes, a dart cannot weigh more than 50 g (1+34 oz) including the shaft and flight and cannot exceed a total length of 300 mm (11+34 in).[24][14]

Playing dimensions

The WDF uses the following standards for play:

The regulations came about due to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world playing at different lengths, with 2.37 m (7 ft 9+14 in) being the compromise length.[25]


Scores for each region of a dartboard (not to scale) shaded by value
Scores for each region of a dartboard (not to scale) shaded by value

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 treble areas. The dartboard featured on The Indoor League television show of the 1970s did not feature a treble section, and according to host Fred Trueman during the first episode, this is the traditional Yorkshire board.

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:

The highest score possible with three 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. A "quad" ring appeared briefly between the triple ring and the bull in the 1990s, leading to a potential 240 maximum (three quad-20s), a 210 maximum checkout (Q20-Q20-Bull) and seven dart finishes from a 501 start (five quad-20s, triple-17, bullseye), but was swiftly dropped from professional tournament play after only two years.[26] One make of this board was the Harrows Quadro 240.[27]

Skill level and aiming

Path of the optimal location to throw a dart, where σ is the average distance by which a player misses their target; σ = 0 is a perfect player, σ = 100 is a player who misses by 10 centimeters on average (see standard deviation)
Path of the optimal location to throw a dart, where σ is the average distance by which a player misses their target; σ = 0 is a perfect player, σ = 100 is a player who misses by 10 centimeters on average (see standard deviation)

Assuming standard scoring, the optimal area to aim for on the dartboard to maximize the player's score varies significantly based on the player's skill. The skilled player should aim for the centre of the T20, and as the player's skill decreases, their aim moves slightly up and to the left of the T20. At σ = 16.4 mm the best place to aim jumps to the T19. As the player's skill decreases further, the best place to aim curls into the centre of the board, stopping a bit lower than and to the left of the bullseye at σ = 100 mm.[28]


Many games can be played on a dartboard, but the term "darts" generally refers to a game in which one player at a time throws three darts per turn. The throwing player must stand so that no portion of his/her feet extends past the leading edge of the oche, but may stand on any other portion and/or lean forward over it if desired.

A game of darts is generally contested between two players, who take turns. The most common objective is to reduce a fixed score, commonly 301 or 501, to zero ("checking out") with the final dart landing in either the bullseye or a double segment to win. Not all three darts need to be thrown on the final turn; the game can be finished on any of the three darts. When two teams play, the starting score is sometimes increased to 701 or even 1001; the rules remain the same.

A throw that reduces a player's score below zero, to exactly one, or to zero but not ending with a double or bullseye is known as "going bust", with the player's score being reset to the value before starting the turn, and the remainder of the turn being forfeited.

In some variants (called a "northern bust" in London) only the dart that causes the bust is not counted. That is felt by some to be a purer version of the game, as under the normal rules, as explained above, a player left with a difficult finish, e.g. 5 and one dart remaining will often deliberately "bust" it to get back to the easier finish that they had at the start of their go. For example, a player with 20 at the start of their go could miss the double 10 and get a single, miss the double 5 and get a single, leaving them 5 and only one dart remaining. Their best option is to deliberately bust it to get back onto double 10. Under the "northern bust" they would remain on 5.

A darts match is played over a fixed number of games, known as legs. A match may be divided into sets, with each set being contested as over a fixed number of legs.

Although playing straight down from 501 is standard in darts, sometimes a double must be hit to begin scoring, known as "doubling in", with all darts thrown before hitting a double not being counted. The PDC's World Grand Prix uses this format.

The minimum number of thrown darts required to complete a leg of 501 is nine. The most common nine-dart finish consists of two 180 maximums followed by a 141 checkout (T20-T19-D12), but there are many other possible ways of achieving the feat. Three 167s (T20-T19-Bull) is considered a pure or perfect nine-dart finish by some players.

Other games and variants

There are several regional variations on the standard rules and scoring systems.

American darts

Main article: American Darts

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

Beer darts

Main article: Beerdarts

Beer darts is a drinking game that involves throwing darts at opponents' beer cans. The resulting drinking actions depend on how and where the beer can was hit with the dart.[29]


Main article: Cricket (darts)

Cricket is a widely played darts game involving a race to control and score on numbers between 20 and 15 and the bullseye, by hitting each of these targets for three marks to open or own it for scoring. A hit on the target counts as one mark, while hits in the doubles ring of the target count as two marks in one throw, and on the triples ring as three. Once opened in this manner, until the opponent closes that number with three marks on it of their own, each additional hit by the owner/opener scores points equal to the number of the target (which may also be doubled and tripled, e.g. a triple-20 is worth 60 points). The outer bullseye counts as 25 points and the inner as 50.


Main article: Dartball

Dartball is a darts game based on the sport of baseball. It is played on a diamond-shaped board and has similar scoring to baseball.

Dart golf

Main article: Dart golf

Dart golf is a darts game based on the sport of golf and is regulated by the World Dolf Federation (WDFF).[30] It is played on both special golf dartboards and traditional dartboards. Scoring is similar to golf.


An 'East-End' or 'Fives' dartboard
An 'East-End' or 'Fives' dartboard

This is 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 the farthest (9 ft or 2.7 m) away from the board of any mainstream variation.[31]

Halve it

Main article: Halve it

"Halve it" is a darts game popular in the United Kingdom and parts of North America where competitors try to hit previously agreed targets on a standard dart board.[32] Failure to do so within a single throw (3 darts) results in the player losing half their accumulated score. Any number of players can take part and the game can vary in length depending on the number of targets selected.[33] The game can be tailored to the skill level of the players by selecting easy or difficult targets.


"Killer" is a 'knock-out' game for two or more players (at its best at 4–6 players). Initially, each player throws a dart at the board with their non-dominant hand to obtain their 'number'. No two players can have the same number. Once everyone has a number, each player takes it in turn to get their number five times with their three darts (doubles count twice, and triples three times). Once a person has reached 5, they become a 'killer'. This means they can aim for other peoples numbers, taking a point off for each time they hit (doubles x2, triples x3). If a person gets to zero they are out. A killer can aim for anyone's numbers, even another killer's. Players cannot get more than 5 points. The winner is 'the last man standing'.[34]

Another version of "Killer" is a "knock-out" game for three or more players (the more the better). To start, everyone has a pre-determined number of lives, (usually 5) and a randomly chosen player throws a single dart at the board to set a target (i.e. single 18) and does not play until that target is hit. The next player up has 3 darts to try and hit the target (single 18), if they fail, they lose a life and the following player tries. Once a player succeeds at hitting the target, they then become the target setter and throw a dart to set a new target. The initial target setter swaps places with the new target setter. The games carry on until every players' lives have been used, the last man standing is the target setter whose target was not hit. For less experienced players you can count doubles and trebles as part of the same number, i.e. a target of treble 20 can still be counted as a success if the double or single 20 is hit and vice versa.

Lawn darts

Main article: Lawn darts

Lawn darts (also called Jarts or yard darts) is a lawn game based on darts. The gameplay and objective are similar to both horseshoes and darts. The darts are similar to the ancient Roman plumbata.

Round the Clock

Round the Clock (also called Around the World, 20 to 1, and Jumpers)[35] is a game involving any number of players where the objective is to hit each section sequentially from 1 to 20 starting after a starting double.[36]


Shanghai is played with at least two players. The standard version is played in seven rounds.[37] In round one players throw their darts aiming for the 1 section, round 2, the 2 sections 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 who scores a Shanghai, which wins instantly, a Shanghai being throws that hit a triple, a double and single (in any order) of the number that is in play.[37]

Shanghai can also be played for 20 rounds to use all numbers. A Fairer Start for Shanghai: To prevent players from becoming too practised at shooting for the 1, the number sequence can begin at the number of the dart that lost the throw for the bullseye to determine the starting thrower. For example; Thrower A shoots for the bullseye and hits the 17. Thrower B shoots for the bullseye and hits it. Thrower B then begins the game, starting on the number 17, then 18, 19, 20, 1, 2, 3, etc. through 16 (if no player hits Shanghai).

Darts organisations

Professional organisations

Main article: Split in darts

Of the two professional steel-tip organisations, the British Darts Organisation (BDO), founded in 1973, is the older. Its tournaments were often shown on the BBC in the UK. 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. As of 24 September 2016, the BBC no longer broadcasts the BDO World Championship.

In 1992, a group of darts players broke off from the BDO and, in pursuit of higher prize money, formed the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Like the BDO, the PDC organises their tournaments as well as their world championship.

In soft-tip, the World Soft Darts Association serves as a governing body of the sport, with events that feature players that play also steel-tip in PDC and BDO events and other players that compete exclusively in soft-tip events.

Amateur league organisations

The American Darts Organization promulgates rules and standards for amateur league darts and sanctions tournaments in the United States. The American Darts Organization began operation January 1, 1976, with 30 charter member clubs and a membership of 7,500 players. Today, the ADO has a membership that averages 250 clubs yearly representing roughly 50,000 members.[38]

Professional play

Since the end of the News of the World Darts Championship and other past major tournaments the BDO and PDC both organise a televised 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 66 county members in the UK including individual and team events.

The PDC's major tournaments are the World Championship, Premier League, UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts. 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.

Two Dutch independently organised major tournaments, the International Darts League and the World Darts Trophy introduced a mix of BDO and PDC players in 2006 and 2007. Both organisations allocated rankings to the tournaments, but these two events are now discontinued.

The WDF World Cup for national teams and a singles tournament has been played biennially since 1977. The WDF also organise the Europe Cup. The PDC has their world cup competition, the PDC World Cup of Darts.

For soft-tip darts, WSDA and DARTSLIVE run THE WORLD, an international tour which serves as the Soft Darts World Championship, with the final tournament referred to as the Grand Final, with the circuit first taking place in 2011. Stages take place mostly in East Asia, with some rounds held in the United States and Europe. Matches during WSDA events are played with both 701 and Cricket during a set, usually with the same number of games of each, giving both players throws during both formats, and the final round determined by player choice.[39]

Professional darts players

See also: List of darts players

World Champions

See also: World Professional Darts Championship

Year Winner WPD / BDO Winner PDC Women's winner BDO Women's winner PDC Winner WSDA[39]
1978 Wales Leighton Rees (1) Not held Not held Not held Not Held
1979 England John Lowe (1)
1980 England Eric Bristow (1)
1981 England Eric Bristow (2)
1982 Scotland Jocky Wilson (1)
1983 England Keith Deller (1)
1984 England Eric Bristow (3)
1985 England Eric Bristow (4)
1986 England Eric Bristow (5)
1987 England John Lowe (2)
1988 England Bob Anderson (1)
1989 Scotland Jocky Wilson (2)
1990 England Phil Taylor (1)
1991 England Dennis Priestley (1)
1992 England Phil Taylor (2)
1993 England John Lowe (3)
1994 Canada John Part (1) England Dennis Priestley (2)
1995 Wales Richie Burnett (1) England Phil Taylor (3)
1996 England Steve Beaton (1) England Phil Taylor (4)
1997 Scotland Les Wallace (1) England Phil Taylor (5)
1998 Netherlands Raymond van Barneveld (1) England Phil Taylor (6)
1999 Netherlands Raymond van Barneveld (2) England Phil Taylor (7)
2000 England Ted Hankey (1) England Phil Taylor (8)
2001 England John Walton (1) England Phil Taylor (9) England Trina Gulliver (1)
2002 Australia Tony David (1) England Phil Taylor (10) England Trina Gulliver (2)
2003 Netherlands Raymond van Barneveld (3) Canada John Part (2) England Trina Gulliver (3)
2004 England Andy Fordham (1) England Phil Taylor (11) England Trina Gulliver (4)
2005 Netherlands Raymond van Barneveld (4) England Phil Taylor (12) England Trina Gulliver (5)
2006 Netherlands Jelle Klaasen (1) England Phil Taylor (13) England Trina Gulliver (6)
2007 England Martin Adams (1) Netherlands Raymond van Barneveld (5) England Trina Gulliver (7)
2008 Wales Mark Webster (1) Canada John Part (3) Russia Anastasia Dobromyslova (1)
2009 England Ted Hankey (2) England Phil Taylor (14) Netherlands Francis Hoenselaar (1)
2010 England Martin Adams (2) England Phil Taylor (15) England Trina Gulliver (8) United States Stacy Bromberg (1)
2011 England Martin Adams (3) England Adrian Lewis (1) England Trina Gulliver (9) Not held Singapore Paul Lim (1)
2012 Netherlands Christian Kist (1) England Adrian Lewis (2) Russia Anastasia Dobromyslova (2) Japan Takehiro Suzuki (1)
2013 England Scott Waites (1) England Phil Taylor (16) Russia Anastasia Dobromyslova (3) Philippines Lourence Ilagan (1)
2014 England Stephen Bunting (1) Netherlands Michael van Gerwen (1) England Lisa Ashton (1) Croatia Boris Krčmar (1)
2015 England Scott Mitchell (1) Scotland Gary Anderson (1) England Lisa Ashton (2) Croatia Boris Krčmar (2)
2016 England Scott Waites (2) Scotland Gary Anderson (2) England Trina Gulliver (10) Croatia Boris Krčmar (3)
2017 England Glen Durrant (1) Netherlands Michael van Gerwen (2) England Lisa Ashton (3) Croatia Boris Krčmar (4)
2018 England Glen Durrant (2) England Rob Cross (1) England Lisa Ashton (4) Singapore Paul Lim (2)
2019 England Glen Durrant (3) Netherlands Michael van Gerwen (3) Japan Mikuru Suzuki (1) Hong Kong Royden Lam (1)
2020 Wales Wayne Warren (1) Scotland Peter Wright (1) Japan Mikuru Suzuki (2)
2021 Not held  Gerwyn Price (1) Not held

Multiple-Time World Champions

16 Phil Taylor The Power (2 BDO, 14 PDC)
10 Trina Gulliver The Golden Girl
5 Eric Bristow The Crafty Cockney
5 Raymond van Barneveld Barney (4 BDO, 1 PDC)
4 Lisa Ashton The Lancashire Rose
3 Martin Adams Wolfie
3 Anastasia Dobromyslova From Russia With Love
3 Glen Durrant Duzza
3 John Lowe Old Stoneface
3 John Part Darth Maple (1 BDO, 2 PDC)
3 Michael van Gerwen Mighty Mike
2 Gary Anderson The Flying Scotsman
2 Ted Hankey The Count
2 Adrian Lewis Jackpot
2 Dennis Priestley The Menace (1 BDO, 1 PDC)
2 Mikuru Suzuki Miracle
2 Scott Waites Scotty 2 Hotty
2 Jocky Wilson Jocky

One-Time World Champions

Bob Anderson The Limestone Cowboy
Steve Beaton The Bronze Adonis
Stacy Bromberg The Wish Granter
Stephen Bunting The Bullet
Richie Burnett The Prince of Wales
Rob Cross Voltage
Tony David The Deadly Boomerang
Keith Deller The Fella
Andy Fordham The Viking
Francis Hoenselaar The Crown
Christian Kist The Lipstick
Jelle Klaasen The Cobra
Scott Mitchell Scotty Dog
Gerwyn Price The Iceman
Leighton Rees Marathon Man
Les Wallace McDanger
John Walton John Boy
Wayne Warren Yank
Mark Webster The Spider
Peter Wright Snakebite

World rankings

Main article: Darts world rankings

The WDF, BDO and PDC each maintain their own rankings lists. These lists are commonly used to determine seedings for various tournaments. The WDF rankings are based on the preceding 12 months performances, the BDO resets all ranking points to zero after the seedings for their world championship have been determined, and the PDC Order of Merit is based on prize money earned over two years.

See also


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      Article on the preceding article: Cameron Bird (Dec. 2009) "Darts for geeks: Statistician cracks the game's secrets" Archived 2014-03-16 at the Wayback Machine, Wired.
    7. Trevor Lipscombe and Arturo Sangalli (2001) "The Devil's Dartboard", Crux Mathematicorum, vol. 27, no. 4, pages 215–21.
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Further reading