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Darts Rules

The rules of darts for professional playing are set out by the DRA (Darts Regulation Authority) to make sure that all games are played accurately and fairly. If you’re new to darts, however, the rules can seem a little obscure and may need some explaining. So, we at Darts Corner want to try and clear up and explain some of the sport’s rules so that you have a better understanding when you’re watching, or when you’re playing.

This blog will focus on the rules of the most commonly played game of darts, 501. 

The positioning of the board and player

Where do the players stand?

In 501 darts, players must stand on something called the ‘oche’. The oche is the line in which dart players must have their feet positioned behind. If a player’s foot crosses that line, it’s classified as a foul and the three darts thrown won’t be counted. The oche is situated 7 feet 9 1/4 inches away from the dartboard and players are allowed to lean their bodies forward as long as their feet remain behind the line. 

How high up is the dartboard?

In a game of 501 darts, the general rule for the positioning of the dartboard is 5 foot 8 inches from the floor to the bullseye. 

How many darts do you have?

In a standard game of 501 darts, each player is given three darts and has to use all three each go, unless they are finishing a leg in 1 or 2 darts.

Why is the number 501 relevant?

The number 501 is relevant as this is the number that each player is assigned at the start of the game. Unlike many other sports where your aim is to win and achieve points, 501 darts works in quite the opposite way. With each player now obtaining a score of 501, the aim is to count down until the player (winner) achieves a final score of 0. 

How does the counting down work?

Each segment of the dartboard obtains some value, hence the number ring that is found on the outer circle of the board. When a player has thrown all three of their darts, the total number (which is reached by adding all of the segments’ values that have been hit with a dart together) is taken off 501. Each dart can be thrown in a different area of the board.

For example, the first player hits two 20s and an 8 and in turn, creates a total of 48. The score for that first play would be reached by doing the calculation 501-48 which would reach 453, meaning the higher you score on the board, the better. 

The minimum number of darts that can be thrown throughout the game is 9 before someone can be declared the champion.

How do the numbers work?

As you can probably tell by the visuals of a dartboard alone, the segments can look confusing and it can leave you wondering how the numbers are achieved...

Each section below the number ring directly correlates with each other. Not all dartboards are the same colourway and therefore you can’t always associate the colours with numbers and therefore understanding what they equate to is key. 

Let’s take the number 20 at the top of the board in the above image as our primary example. The colour pattern for this particular board underneath 20 shows red, black, red, black and green. Each of the different sections stands for something that needs to be done to the number and it’s the same for each segment under each number. So, let’s explain in a bit more detail...

The Double Ring

The outermost circle, which is the first segment under each number is called the double ring. In our photographic example used, this is the first red section underneath the number 20. If a dart is thrown into this section of the dartboard, you will achieve double points of the number that is above the dart. So if you throw your first dart into the top section underneath 20 you will knock 20+20= 40 off your score. 

The Single Ring

Again, taking the example of 20, the segment underneath the double ring is called the single ring. If you throw your dart in this section you will simply achieve that number and in this case, would knock 20 off your score. This may be a beneficial place of aim if you only need a small number knocked off toward the end of the game.

The Triple Ring 

The inner circle, which in the example image is depicted as the second green and red circle, is known as the triple ring. If a dart is thrown in this section, you will achieve triple the number which your dart has been thrown under. Taking our example, if you were to throw the dart and it hit the triple ring under the number 20 you would achieve 20+20+20= 60 and this would then be taken off your score. 

The Single Ring

Heading closer toward the middle of the dartboard, you will find another single ring underneath the triple ring. As previously stated, the single ring means that you achieve the score in which the dart has been thrown under. 

The Outer Bull

The outer bull is the section of the dartboard that surrounds the bullseye. In our example image, this is the most inner green section on the board. Here, you don’t need to look at the number ring on the outside of the board because no matter where you hit on the outer bull, you will always achieve a score of 25.

The Bullseye

The bullseye is the point in the centre of the board, on our image the innermost red section, and again does not require the number ring on the outside of the board. If you throw your dart in the bullseye successfully, you will achieve 50 points which will be knocked off your score.

What’s the highest number you can achieve in one go?

The maximum score that you can achieve with your three darts is 180, this would consist of throwing all of your darts into the triple ring under the number 20. 

Finishing the game

Most games of 501 darts require you to hit a double to achieve a score of zero to in turn, win the game.


Here at Darts Corner, we hope that you have found this blog on darts scoring insightful and a useful piece of information. Don’t forget to explore our extensive selection of dartboards to help you get to be the best player you can!

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