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A Short History of Darts

The sport of darts began as training in the martial arts, (well, the martial art of archery). Darts began in
Medieval England. Historians surmise, because they don't know for certain, that those teaching archery
shortened some arrows and had their students throw them at the bottom of an empty wine barrel.

The fact that the bottom of an empty wine barrel was used is a clue to how the game developed into a
pastime. It is thought that the soldiers took their shortened arrows with them to the local drinking
establishment to both exhibit their skill and have fun at the same time. When the bottoms of wine barrels
proved to be inconvenient or in short supply, some inventive dart thrower brought in a cross-section of a
moderate sized tree.

The "board" provided rings, and when it dried out, the cracks provided further segmentation. This cracked
and dried board began to evolve into what we think of as the current dart board.

A game as fun as darts could not be hidden from the upper classes and they soon put their own stamp on
the game. The oft-married Henry VIII was reputed to enjoy the game immensely. So much so, that he was
given a beautifully ornate set by Anne Boleyn.

Like much of American History, the roots of darts in America can be traced to the Pilgrims. These
hardy colonizers were reputed to have played the game on the Mayflower as it made its ocean
crossing. Like the game of horseshoes, it was then played avidly in America whenever leisure time
was available.

However, darts remained largely an Anglo-American sport until the Victorian age when it was spread
world-wide by the great expansion of the British Empire. It seems that the "sun never set on the British
Empire". At the same time, there was never a time when a dart was not in the air. Many native populations
were exposed to the game and found enjoyment in it.

Around 1900 the rules and darts began to settle into what they are today. Yet according to Christopher G.
Carey, author of American Darts Organization Book of Darts, "The international throwing line of 7 ft. 9 1/4
inches was established in the 1970s to make it standard for international competitions; depending on the
country (or at times, even the venue), the throwing line was anywhere from 7 ft 6 in. to 8 ft. Also, throughout
the early part of the 20th century, there were many different types of dartboards until the 'clock' board
became the standard...It really wasn't until after WWII that many of the rules of darts became
standardized." Now people all around the world can enjoy the sport of darts in international competitions,
in leagues, or in private parties and all be on an equal footing.

So the next time you put your toe to the line and raise a dart to the board, remember that there is a rich
history behind this engrossing sport.
Darts Rules

Being a “sport” – many argue it is a game – mainly played in pubs


and requiring little or no physical fitness, darts is one activity at
which Britain excels! Darts is thought to have been created when
soldiers began throwing short arrows at cut tree trunks or
alternatively at the bottom of the cask. As the wood dried cracks
appeared, creating sections which, steadily, over time became set
scores, albeit with much regional and international variation.

Darts is now widely played in many parts of the world, but


especially in former Commonwealth countries, the Netherlands
and Belgium, the United States and Scandinavia. There are two main professional governing bodies, the
PDC and BDO, the latter being the longer running of the two. Given the presence of the sport in pubs and
bars it is probably one of the largest participatory sports in the world.

Object of the Game

501 is the standard version of the game in competition and the object is to “check out” by getting your score
down to 50 or less before ending the game by reaching zero by either throwing a double or a bullseye with
your final dart.

Players & Equipment

Darts only requires a board and the darts themselves, this limited list of equipment being one of the reasons
for its success. The board that is now used as standard was created in 1896 by a Lancashire carpenter with
the aim of penalising inaccurate throwing by keeping large numbers apart and bordering them with small
numbers. Whilst mathematicians have long argued over the best board layout to minimise the reward for
inaccurate efforts, the current design is actually pretty good.

The board itself is made from compressed sisal fibres and despite modern electronic versions is now the
accepted norm. In the early days after the First World War darts was played using a heavy, solid wood
board, normally made from elm and subsequently clay versions were trialled.

The standard board is 17¾ inches (451mm) in diameter and is divided into 20 radial sections by thin metal
wire. The sections are numbered from 1-20 and contain a thin section at the outer edge (double) and
slightly smaller area midway towards the centre (treble). The bullseye or “bull” is a small circle, usually
red, at the very centre of the board and is surrounded by the larger, green, outer bull.

The darts are usually used using a combination of metal, nylon and plastic for the points, barrels, shafts and
fletching. The exact style and make-up of the dart will vary according to the player’s style and ability (or
what pub you’re in!) but they must weigh no more than 50g and be no longer than 300mm.
Scoring

A player scores points by throwing the darts at the board. Each player throws three darts on their turn with
the maximum score being 180, achieved by hitting three treble 20s. The bull is worth 50 points, the outer
bull 25 points and the various numbers score their own value, unless they are doubled (the outer rim) or
trebled.

Winning the Game

To win a player must reach zero by hitting a double or a bull, having first got their score down from the 501
starting point. If they do that they win the leg and the first to three legs wins the set. Most matches are
normally played “best of” a defined (odd) number of sets, with the sport’s biggest prize, the PDC World
Championship, involving a final that is best of 13 (therefore the winner is the first to seven sets).

Rules of Darts

The rules of darts are very simple and have basically been discussed in previous sections. Some key points
to note are as follows:

 Which player takes the first turn in a game is decided by throwing a single dart each with the nearest
to the bull taking the first throw.
 A throw consists of throwing three darts unless the game is won in fewer.
 Only darts in the board at the end of the throw are counted and ones that bounce or fall out cannot
be thrown again.
 If a player scores more than their remaining points total their throw ends and is scored zero (for
example if they have 16 remaining and accidentally hit a 20 with their first dart).
 The centre of the bull should be exactly 5ft 8in (1.73 metres) high.
 Darts are thrown from a clearly marked toe-line, often called the oche, at least 7ft 9 ¼ in from the
board, measured horizontally.
Terminologies used in Playing Dart
ANNIE'S ROOM (or ANNIE'S HOUSE)
The number 1.
ARROWS
Another term for darts.
ARCHER
Refers to a player who throws very quick smooth darts, like an archer's arrow (also known as a 'Derek').
Contrast "FLOATER".

B
BABY TON
A score of 95, usually by scoring five 19s.
BAG O' NUTS
A score of 45.
BARREL
The metal portion of the dart (where you grip the dart)
BASEMENT
The double-3.
BED
A section of a number / a scoring area of the board i.e. double bed, Treble bed
BLACK HAT
Reference to the Inner Bull Eye (When the Centre Bull is Black!)
BOMBS / BOMBERS
Very large or heavy darts usually made from brass.
BOUNCE OUT
Scoring dart falls out of the board or hits the wire (the dart doesn't score)
BREAKFAST / BED & BREAKFAST
A score of 26, made up of a single-5, single-20, single-1 in a game of x01. This is a common score in darts
because players aiming for the 20 segment (which contains the highest scoring area on the board) will
often accidentally hit the 1 and the 5 segments, which are located on either side of the 20. The term comes
from the typical price of a bed-and-breakfast in times gone by: 2 shillings and sixpence, or "two and six".
(See also "CHIPS")
BUCKET/BAG OF NAILS
Landing all three darts in the 1's.
BUCKSHOT
A throw when darts land wildly all over the board.
BULL-OFF
See DIDDLE FOR THE MIDDLE.
BULL-UP
See DIDDLE FOR THE MIDDLE.
BULL-OUT
Winning a game with a double bull
BULLSEYE (or BULL)
The centre of the board. (see also: "SINGLE-BULL" and "DOUBLE-BULL") Score of 50
BUST / BUSTED
Hitting more than you needed in an x01 game. The darts do not count and the player begins his next turn
on the same score he had prior to.
C
In a Cricket game this refers to high scores base on the number of darts scored. For example a triple-20,
single-20, single-20 would be called a C-5 because "5 darts" were scored with three darts.
CHAMPAGNE BREAKFAST
Hitting treble 20, treble 1 and treble 5 in three darts (see "BREAKFAST")
CHALKING
Keeping score / marking the game.
CHIPS
A score of 26. (See also: "BREAKFAST /BED & BREAKFAST")
CHUCKER
A player who just "chucks" the darts at the board, doesn't aim or care.
CIRCLE IT
When a player scores a single digit (less than 10) with three darts, his team-mates would shout out
"Circle it!" to the scorekeeper to highlight the terrible throw. A variation on this tradition is to draw a fish
around the score, often leading to aquarium-related jokes being aimed at particularly poor or unlucky
players.
CLOCK
The dartboard itself, usually in the context of "ROUND THE CLOCK".
CORK
The centre of the board. This comes from the cork in the end of a keg where it is tapped. The ends of kegs
were used for targets in the game's early days.

D
DARTITIS
Name given to a mental state of a dart thrower unable to release his / her dart during a throw.
DEVIL
The treble-6, so called due to '666', and the fact that it is often hit in error when going for treble-13 or
treble-10.
DIDDLE FOR THE MIDDLE
A throw to see who gets one dart closer to the bullseye to determine who throws first in the game. Also
known as a "BULL OFF", "MIDDLE FOR MIDDLE" and "OUT FOR BULL".
DOUBLE
The thin outer ring of the board. In standard x01 games, a double counts for two times the number hit.
DOUBLE-BULL
On dartboards configured with a bullseye consisting of two concentric circles, the outer circle is
commonly green and worth 25 and the inner circle is commonly red and worth 50 points. Hitting the
innermost ring of this type of bullseye is a "DOUBLE-BULL". (See also: "BULLSEYE")
DOUBLE IN (DI)
A variant of x01 in which a double is needed to start the game.
DOUBLE OUT (DO)
Hitting the double of a number to win a game of 'x01
DOUBLE TOP
The double-20.
DOUBLE TROUBLE
Not being able to hit the double needed to win the game.
DOWNSTAIRS
The lower portion of the board, usually in reference to the 19s in a game of x01.

E
EASY IN
A game that requires no special shot to begin scoring.
FAT
The largest portion of a number (the area between the double and triple ring)
FEATHERS
The 'feathers'/ Flights of the dart which makes the dart more aerodynamic
FLIGHTS
The "wings" at the end of a dart that make it fly straight. Also known as feathers.

G
GAME ON
Advises all players that the match has now started
GAME SHOT
Signifies that the match winning double has been hit
GOOD GROUP
A compliment for tight, accurate throwing.
GRAND SLAM
Hitting the T5, T20 & T1 in one throw.
GRANNY
A lose without scoring, see SHUT OUT cricket game

H
HAIL MARY
The third dart that miraculously scores a high treble where the first two combined scored low single
numbers
HAT TRICK
A score of three bullseyes in a single throw.
HIGH TON
Scoring between 151-180 points in a game of '01
HOCKEY
The throw or Toe line. See 'Oche' Oche is pronounced as Hockey
I
ISLAND
The actual playable area of a dart board (inside the doubles ring). Missing this area entirely is sometimes
referred to as "Off the island".

K
KILLER
A game variant where a number of players "own" a number on the dartboard 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' numbers) until a
single player is left.

L
LEG
One game of a match. Most professional matches are made up of a number of sets, each of which is split
into legs.
LEG SHOT
Signifies that a player has completed (Won) the "leg" as per Game Shot.
LIPSTICK
Name given to the treble twenty made famous by Geordie darts commentator Sid Waddell
LITTLE / SMALL
The single bed between the bull and the triple
LOW TON
Scoring between 100-150 points in a game of '01

M
MAD HOUSE
The double-1. At least two explanations for the term have been proffered; because it can drive you crazy
trying to hit one in a game of x01, or because it impossible to "get out" of the mad house - once a player
has a score of 2 the only way to finish the game is by hitting a double-1.
MAXIMUM
A score of 180
MAXIMUM CHECK-OUT
A score of 170 to end a game. treble-20, treble-20, inner bull
MIDDLE FOR MIDDLE
See "DIDDLE FOR THE MIDDLE".
MONGER
A person who deliberately scores many more points than needed to win the game cricket game not 501.
Motown
Scoring 44 finish i.e single 4 and double 20 (tops). It is a reference to the ' Four Tops' group that were
associated with the Motown Music label
MUGS AWAY
Loser of the previous game goes first in the next game.

N
NAIL
Another word for 1. See "Bucket of Nails" and "Bag of Nails".
NOT OLD
A score of 37 (usually by hitting a 20, a 5 and a 12). The phrase is believed to have its origins in a Monty
Python sketch.

O
OCHE
The throw line you stand behind and to throw the darts. (pronounced 'Hockey')
OUT FOR BULL
The out scoring area of the centre bullseye- score of 25.

P
PERFECT GAME
Least number of darts to win a leg of darts 501 - 9 darts
PERFECT SCORE
When a player scores a maximum 180 points in one throw of three darts.
PERFECT FINISH
When a player finishes a game with a maximum score of 170. This must be done by scoring treble 20,
treble 20, double bull, with only three darts. This is considerably more difficult than hitting a perfect
score as the player must break focus to change targets and it can only be done if the player has an exact
score of 170 remaining.
POINTS
The point of the dart, steel tipped or plastic.

R
ROBIN HOOD
When you throw a dart into the shaft of another.
ROUND OF Terms
Throwing three triples in one turn in Cricket.
ROUTE 66
Scoring 66 points in a throw.
ROUND THE CLOCK
Any of a number of game variants where players compete to be the first to hit all the segments on the
board in an agreed order (usually numerical), finishing with the outer bull followed by the bull. In some
versions hitting a double entitles the player to skip the next number, with a treble entitling the player to
skip two numbers. Also commonly played by single players as a form of practice.

S
SHAFT / STEM
The part of a dart behind the barrel when the flights are mounted.
SHANGHAI
A score of a single, double and triple in the same number. "Shanghai" sometimes refers to a checkout of
120 (single, treble and double 20). In some games this is an automatic win i.e in a game of Shanghai.
SHOOTER
American terms for dart thrower
SHUT OUT
When you lose a game without ever scoring in it.
SINGLE BULL
On dartboards configured with a bullseye consisting of two concentric circles, the outer circle is
commonly green and worth 25 and the inner circle is commonly red and worth 50 points. Hitting the
outermost ring of this type of bullseye is a "SINGLE-BULL". (See also: "BULLSEYE")
SLOP /SLOPPY DARTS
Darts that score, but not where you wanted them. (See also: "SPLASH")
SPIDER or WEB
The dartboard wire assembly which divides the scoring segments of the dartboard.
SPLASH
Darts that score, but not where you wanted them. (See also: "SLOP")
SPLITTING THE 11
Throwing a dart between the digits of the 11 on the number ring. (Split double 1!)
STACKER
Dart landing on top and touching a previous dart thrown forming a stacked effect.
STICKS
The darts themselves.
STRAIGHT IN / SINGLE IN / STRAIGHT OFF
A game that requires no special shot to begin scoring.
STRAIGHT OUT / SINGLE OUT
Ending a game of '01 without having to hit a double, but hitting the required i.e. ten required 10 hit not
necessarily double 5
STRIKING OIL
Hitting a double bull when "DIDDLING FOR THE MIDDLE" - comes from the black centre of some
modern dart boards.
T
THREE IN A BED
Three darts in the same number.
THROW LINE
The line you stand behind and throw the darts from also known as the 'Oche' Line / Toe Line.
TOE LINE
The line you stand behind and throw the darts from also known as the 'Oche' Line / Throw Line.
TON
A score of 100 in a game of x01.
TON PLUS
Scoring 100+ points in a throw (Ton 40 would be 140 points)
TOPS
The double 20 bed. As in "he wants tops for the match".
TRIPLE / TREBLE
The thin inner ring of the board, it usually counts for three times the number hit.
TROMBONES
Scoring 76 points in a throw.
TWO & SIX
Scoring 26 points in a throw (Old English money term)
TWO FAT LADIES
Scoring 88 points in a throw.
UNDER STACKER
Dart landing underneath and touching a previous dart thrown forming an 'under stacking' effect.
UPSTAIRS
The upper portion of the board, usually in reference to the 20s.

WEB
The dartboard wire assembly which divides the scoring segments of the dartboard
WET FEET (or PADDLING)
Having one or both feet across the throwing line.
WHITE HORSE
Scoring three virgin (untouched) triples in Cricket.
WIRE
Darts that just miss where you aimed but on the wire.
WOODY
Dart lands outside the scoring area.

X
X
Used to signify A double i.e. x1 out.