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A Detailed Guide On How To Play 501 Darts

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Introduction of 501 Darts

There is a possibility that the darts game you watched on TV was a 501 darts game. 501 is the most popular and commonly played darts game in the world. And it is most likely the first game that darts players learn.

Among all the darts games, 501 is the most played and popular one. you can literally see people playing 501 darts in every pub, home, or establishment. Trust my words, when I say that you NEED to learn 501.

It’s not hard to learn this game because it might be the easiest and simplest darts game. 501 darts is a fun game to play, either you play it alone or all teamed up.

We have got a complete guide for you, to help you learn 501 darts. The guide includes all the basic rules and we will also share some strategies and tips for beginners.

Note: about all the darts games have variations. This rules outline is for the most popular variation of 501.


Basic rules for 501 Darts
Basic rules for 501 Darts

Basic rules for 501 Darts

The rules of playing 501 darts are simple, the players/teams start the game with a 501 points score. Then, players start taking turns throwing darts, alternatively. The opposing players score points and the number of points they score is removed from the total score. The one who reaches 0 before the other, wins.

However, a player is required to double-in before it starts subtracting from the total score, and double-out in order to complete the game. While planning a finish, more skill and strategy enters the game, because, without these two things, players might end up losing.

Normally, a coin is tossed to decide who will start the game. But another method is by throwing darts at the dartboard, whoever gets to land the dart nearest to the bullseye gets the first turn.

How to Double-in?

Before the scoring starts, players are required to land a dart in any of the double sections that are located around the outer ring of the dartboard. This is how “double-in” is done.

Before doubling in, no dart that the player throw does not count. Bullseye is also considered to be a double section, which means players can double-in on it too.

While doubling in remember, that the most desired spots are the bullseye and the double 20. Why? Because these spots are worth the highest points (50 & 40). If two teams are playing, then only one player from each team needs to double-in for the whole team.

Once, doubling in is done, the scoring starts. Now, every dart that is thrown, is counted to subtract the score.

How to get the score down in 501 darts?

After the player has doubled-in, his/her target is to score points in every round, as many as possible. Generally, players tend to aim for triple 20 – triple 20 is the target with the highest points on the dartboard.

If a player lands three darts in triple 20, it scores him/her a total of 180 points, which is the highest score one can achieve in one round. Although, there are times when players want to land their darts on other targets.

If the triple 20 is blocked because of another dart then, the player should aim for the triple 19. Players can also aim for other targets when the score has lowered enough to the point of finishing and he/she just wants to set up the double-up.

When setting up for a finish, it’s important to think strategically about which numbers to hit to leave yourself a preferred double. Experienced players will calculate their scores and aim for the numbers that will leave them on an even number, which is essential for finishing the game, as the player must hit a double to end the game.

For example, if a player has 170 points left (the lowest score that can be finished with a three-dart combination), they might aim for a triple 20, another triple 20, and then a bullseye to finish the game. For other specific remaining scores, there are common checkout routes that players memorize and aim to follow.

As players get closer to zero, they must be cautious not to bust by scoring more points than the remaining score or by hitting a single or triple when a double is needed to finish. In such cases, it’s wise to calculate backwards, determining which double one wishes to end on and then working out the combination of scores to get down to that double.

Precision and consistency are key in 501 darts. Players must not only focus on hitting the high-scoring triples but also on maintaining accuracy when aiming for the finishing doubles. Practicing finishing combinations and developing a good understanding of the dartboard’s number layout are crucial for improving your endgame in 501 darts.

Additionally, mental arithmetic is a valuable skill in darts. Being able to quickly calculate the best checkout combination in the heat of the moment can give a player a competitive edge.

Finally, practice is essential. The more a player throws darts, the more familiar they become with different segments of the dartboard. This familiarity allows for more consistent scoring and better strategy when approaching the end of a leg. Regular practice of finishing combinations and scoring high in the early stages of the game will inevitably lead to a better overall performance and lower scores in 501 darts.

How to win 501 Darts?

Doubling out is required in order to win, and it is done the same way as doubling in. however, doubling out is a little bit trickier.

Players can not just aim for any target in order to double-out. While doubling out, players need to land their dart precisely at a double, which gets them 0 points to win.

Players need to keep in mind that they don’t have to land the darts on targets with higher points than what they have remaining, this will only cause a bust and the turn will end. The highest target on which a player can double out is the center bull. This target is worth 50 points after the center bull comes the double 20 that is worth 40 points.

How to score the 501 darts?

Usually, in 501 darts one person is assigned the task to do the scoring. This person is called the Chalker or the marker. The scoreboard is divided into two sections and each side represents the respective team.

After the player has thrown three darts, the Chalker adds up the total points of the darts and subtract them from the running total on the scoreboard.

The Chalker needs to be very attentive. He/she needs to keep an eye on everything that is going on; what number has been hit, what is left, and also whose turn it is.

If a player hits a double or a triple, the Chalker must calculate that accordingly – each segment on the dartboard has a double and triple ring which counts for twice or thrice the number of the segment hit. For example, if a player hits a triple 20, that would be 60 points.

The game of 501 darts requires players to start with a score of 501 and work their way down to exactly zero. The key rule here is that the last dart thrown must land in a double or the outer bullseye (which counts as 50 points and is considered a double of the 25-point bullseye). This is known as “doubling out.” If a player reaches zero without doubling out, or if they score more points than needed, their turn is considered “busted,” and the score reverts back to what it was before their turn began.

It’s important for the Chalker to be aware of possible checkout combinations as players get close to zero. For instance, if a player has 40 points left, they will aim for a double 20 to win the game. The Chalker should be ready to recognize these situations and confirm the winning throw.

In addition to keeping track of scores and turns, the Chalker may also announce the scores after each throw and the remaining amount the player needs to check out. Good communication skills and a clear voice are beneficial for this role.

To avoid any disputes or discrepancies, it’s advisable for the Chalker to write down the scores clearly and visibly, using agreed-upon notations, and to keep the scoreboard updated promptly after each player’s turn.

Finally, the Chalker must maintain impartiality and focus throughout the game, ensuring that the scoring is accurate and fair to all players. The role of the Chalker is critical in a game of 501 darts, as accurate scoring is essential for a smooth and enjoyable game.

Variations in 501 darts

The basic 501 darts have some variations in their rules, which depend upon the place you are at and also the person you are playing it with.

The most common variation is related to the doubling in part of 501 darts. Doubling in is not required in a professional game before the subtraction starts.

The reason behind doing this is to speed up the action and pace of the game. If you watch professional darts games, you must notice that all the players start scoring immediately after the game starts.

If the teams are uneven, according to a standard practice a dummy player is included in the game rotations. The dummy (fake) player has a predestined score for each round, depending upon the skill level of other players on the team. This score is then deducted from the running total in every turn of the dummy player.

Another variation that can affect gameplay is the requirement for ‘doubling out‘, which means that a player must hit a double to reduce their score from 501 to exactly zero. While this is a standard rule in many places, some casual games may forego this rule to keep the game simple and friendly for all skill levels. However, in professional play and most amateur leagues, doubling out is a crucial part of the strategy, adding an additional layer of skill and pressure to the game’s conclusion.

‘Best of’ formats can also vary in 501 darts. In some competitions, players might compete in a ‘best of five legs’ format, whereas others might play ‘best of three sets’, with each set being the best of three, five, or even seven legs. This can change the length of the game and can lead to different strategic approaches, as endurance and consistency across multiple legs or sets become more important.

In team play, variations might include tactics such as pairs or doubles, where two players team up and alternate throws. This introduces a collaborative element to the game, where partners must work together and play to each other’s strengths. Some local leagues also have specific rules about order of play, handicaps for less experienced players, or even unique scoring systems that add a twist to the traditional 501 format.

Furthermore, there can be variations on the oche (the line behind which the throwing player must stand). Standard distance from the oche to the front of the dartboard is 7 feet 9.25 inches, but this can be adjusted in informal settings for children or those with mobility issues to make the game more accessible.

Lastly, ‘practice variations’ are often employed by players looking to improve their game. These can include starting with a higher score than 501, aiming for specific areas of the board to improve precision, or playing ‘around the clock’ where the objective is to hit each number on the board in sequence.


Tips for 501 darts

  • For the beginners, it is recommended that they double-in on the sides (6 or 11). If the dart is overthrown or if it drops, it is most likely to directly hit the double below or above.
  • For the people who are unable to hit anything that they aim for, try aiming for triple 14. It is a better idea to land on 11, 12, 9, 8; these targets tend to add more scores that also much faster than the three darts landing in 1 while you aim for the 20.
  • Plan ahead for the double-out. The magic number here is 32. If you obtain the single 16, only double 8 is left which is right next to it. Now, you can hit the double 8 and only double 4 is left and the game goes on until you are left with a double 1. Another option is double 20, 10, and 5.
  • What if you get stuck on an odd number and you need to double out? Aiming for the bottom of the board will help you here – 7,19,3,17. As long as the sequence stays you will most likely get to an even number.
  • You can also volunteer to be the Chalker. Basic mathematics will help you in getting a good start in the game. With time you will get better and will also learn standard checkouts. Your game can completely change if you plan and set your darts up ahead of time.

Mastering your stance and grip is crucial. A consistent stance ensures that your body is balanced and stable, while a firm yet relaxed grip allows for better control and release of the dart. Practice these basics to develop a repeatable throwing action.

Focus on your breathing. Just like in other sports, controlled breathing can help to calm your nerves and steady your hand. Inhale deeply before you throw and exhale as you release the dart. This can improve your concentration and accuracy.

Don’t rush your throws. Take your time to line up each dart and focus on your target. Rushing can lead to a loss of form and reduced accuracy. Remember, in 501, every dart counts, so make each one matter.

Keep track of your scores and what you need to finish the game. Knowing your outs can guide your strategy for each turn. For example, if you have 170 left, you know that two triple 20s and a bullseye will win the game. Familiarize yourself with common outs and practice them.

Stay calm under pressure. Whether you’re ahead or behind in the game, maintaining a level head is key. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you, as this can affect your performance. Stay focused on the game and your technique.

Practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at 501 darts is to play regularly. Set aside time to practice your throws, work on your weak points, and simulate match conditions to improve your competitive edge.

Watch the pros. Observing professional dart players can give you insights into technique, strategy, and mental toughness. Pay attention to how they handle high-pressure situations and try to incorporate some of their methods into your own game.

Lastly, enjoy the game. While being competitive and wanting to improve is important, darts is a game that should be fun. Enjoy your time at the oche, and you’ll likely find that a positive attitude can lead to better performance.

Official rule books

The Darts Regulation Authority Rule Book is used by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) as a guide. This rule book covers every single and littlest detail regarding the game, that might be a lot more information than you actually need.

However, fans of the game might love reading it. Some interesting highlights that we took out for you are as following:

  • From section 5.2 (Rules regarding Throwing) 5.2.2: All darts must be deliberately thrown in an over arm fashion, one at a time, by and from the Player’s hand.
  • Section 5.17 (Rules regarding Playing Attire) 5.17.1: Players are not permitted to wear jeans: neither shall they wear trousers or skirts made with denim or corduroy material which have been fashioned in a “jeans style”.
  • Section 5.18 (Rules regarding Alcohol) 5.18.1: No alcoholic drinks shall be consumed or taken outside the designated practice area by any Player or Official whilst engaged in any Darts Event.

You can clearly see the difference between the “official” rules and the rules followed in any local league or pub. But don’t worry, you are not playing in the PDC, and you do not need to follow the official rules only, although do follow the local ones completely.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that the British Darts Organization (BDO) has its own list of rules for the game which is a little different than the PDC rules.


501 Darts is the most popular and common darts game, often played in pubs and homes worldwide. The basic premise is that players or teams start with 501 points and take turns throwing darts to subtract from this total, aiming to reach zero. The game requires players to ‘double-in’ to start scoring and ‘double-out’ to win, with the highest scores achieved by hitting the triple 20 or bullseye. Scoring is typically tracked by a designated person (Chalker), and while there are variations in rules depending on the setting, the key elements remain consistent. For beginners, aiming for certain areas like the sides or the bottom of the board can help score more effectively. Official rules by organizations like the PDC and BDO offer detailed regulations, but local or casual play often follows a more simplified set of rules.

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