Learn to Play Darts 501: The Best guide to Playing Correctly

Growing up, I remember the sound of darts hitting the board in the small pub my father would take me to on weekends. The atmosphere was always electric, especially when players neared the end of the 501 game. Fast forward a couple of decades, and darts remains an intrinsic part of my life. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate not just the thrill of the game but also its rich history and the significance of mastering its intricacies.

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of Darts 501, breaking down its essence, rules of darts 501, and strategies, with a focus on showing how darts enthusiasts can improve their game and aim for that coveted bullseye.

Whether you’re a novice hoping to learn the basics or a seasoned player looking to refine your skills, this guide offers valuable insights for everyone. From understanding the starting points to decoding the art of score deduction and nailing that perfect finish, we’ve got it all covered. So grab your set of darts and gain insights on how to start scoring big and gain an edge in the game.

Key Takeaways

  • Starting Points: Each player begins with a score of 501.
  • Objective: The goal is to reduce your score to zero before your opponent.
  • Darts Thrown: Players throw three darts in succession during their turn.
  • Doubling In & Out: Some variations require players to start (double in) and finish (double out) their scores with a double.
  • Score Deduction: The total points scored in a turn are deducted from the player’s current total.
  • Sets and Legs: Games can be divided into sets, with each set comprising a certain number of legs (typically best of 3, 5, or 7 legs).
  • Winning: The first player to reduce their score to zero, finishing on a double, wins the leg or set.

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Mastering Darts 501 The Best guide to Playing Correctly

Brief History of Darts 501

Darts, as a sport, is a game played around for many years and has roots that date back centuries, from the medieval taverns of England to the grand televised stages of today. The 501 format, specifically, is relatively modern in comparison. It became a popular game in the 20th century, particularly in British pubs. The game’s premise is simple: players begin with a score of 501 and must reduce this to zero in as few throws as possible. The final dart must land in either the bullseye or a double segment, adding an element of strategy and suspense that has gripped audiences for decades.

Over time, Darts 501 has grown in stature, with international championships and a devoted fanbase. It’s not just a game of skill but also of mental fortitude, where strategy and dexterity go hand in hand.

Importance of Mastering the Game

To the casual observer, darts might seem like a straightforward game of throwing small arrows onto a board. But any dedicated player knows there’s so much more beneath the surface. Mastering Darts 501 isn’t just about perfecting your throw—it’s about understanding the mathematical strategies behind checkouts, predicting your opponent’s moves, and handling the intense pressure of a close game.

When you truly understand and master the nuances of 501, not only do you improve your chances of winning, but you also gain a deeper appreciation for the sport. There’s a unique satisfaction in executing a flawless game, in making those high-pressure checkouts, and in being a part of a community that shares a passion for this age-old game. And, if you’re anything like me, that passion and mastery can also lead to some bragging rights during friendly pub matches or even professional matches!

To dive deeper into the rules and strategies of this exhilarating game, check out my comprehensive guide on the rules of 501 Darts: Master the 501 Darts Rules: Expert Guide to Winning Games!.

Foundations of 501 Darts: The Basics

Growing up, I often wondered why 501 became such a staple in the darts community. Why not 500 or 550? The intricacies and precision required for the game had me intrigued from an early age, and this curiosity led me to delve deeper into its origins and understand its significance in the world of darts.

Origin and Popularity of 501 Darts

The game of darts has its roots firmly embedded in English history, tracing back to soldiers throwing short arrows at tree trunks to improve their aim. Over time, as this pastime grew in popularity, standardized rules began to emerge, and various game formats took shape. Among these, the 501 darts game stood out.

While the exact origins of why 501 was chosen as the starting number remain a mystery, its appeal is undeniable. By the 20th century, 501 darts had cemented its place as a favorite in British pubs and soon after on the international stage. The thrill of counting down from 501, the strategic race to zero, and the need for precision with every throw made it a spectator’s delight.

In today’s age, 501 darts isn’t just a pub game. It’s the centerpiece of major international championships, drawing audiences and players from across the globe, all united by a shared love for this unique game format.

Core Objective of the Game

At its heart, the objective of 501 darts is deceptively simple: start the game from a score of 501 and be the first to bring your score down to zero. However, the catch is in the details. Players must end the game by landing a dart in a double or the bullseye. This twist adds layers of strategy, making each throw a calculated decision.

For those new to the game, it may seem like it’s all about getting the highest scores with each throw. But seasoned players understand the dance of mathematics and strategy involved. Whether to aim for the treble 20 or switch to another section, when to start focusing on setting up a finish, or the heart-pounding moments when you’re on a double to win – each decision can make or break a game.

And if you’ve ever experienced the sheer excitement of being on the cusp of a win, only to miss that final double, you’ll know just how addictive and challenging this game can be.

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Diving Deep: 501 Darts Rules Explained

My first time stepping up to the oche to play 501, I assumed it was all about throwing, score as many points as possible, and aiming for the bullseye every time. Little did I realize the depth and nuance that the rules brought to the game. It wasn’t just about raw skill; it was also about strategy, foresight, and an understanding of the 501 rules used by the PDC, BDO (British darts organisation), and other organizations.

Setting up: Hit a double to start

Many newcomers to the game might not be aware of this, but in certain variations of 501 darts, you can’t just start anywhere. There’s a rule known as “doubling in.” This means the very first score that gets you on the board must be a double. That could be double 1, double 20, or any double in between. It adds an extra layer of challenge right at the outset. I remember the first time I played with this rule; it took me a good few turns just to get started, much to the amusement of my mates.

Learn to Play Darts 501 Darts infographic

The Art of Deduction: Getting Your Score Down

Once you’re in, the next objective is to bring your score down from 501 to as low as possible, as quickly as possible. This isn’t just about hitting treble 20s (though that’s a great strategy). It’s about understanding where you’re at, what your opponent is doing, and planning two or three throws ahead. For instance, if you’re on 269, two treble 20s and a 9 will set you up nicely for a 170 checkout on your next visit, which, by the way, is the highest possible checkout.

Victory in Sight: How to Win the game of darts 501 

Now, here comes the most nerve-wracking part of the game: the finish. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played a flawless game up to this point; if you can’t hit that double to finish, it can all be in vain. The rule is clear: to win a game of 501, your last dart must hit the double or the bullseye (double 25 points or worth 50 points), bringing your score exactly to zero. It’s a mix of mathematics, precision, and nerves. The pressure of standing at the oche, one dart in hand, needing a double 16 to win is an adrenaline rush like no other.

And, on the topic of finishing a game, there’s a situation that often brings a smirk to seasoned players and bafflement to newcomers. Curious about the quirky rule when you’ve just 1 point left? Dive into the peculiarities of such a scenario here: What happens When You’ve Only 1 Point Left in Darts 501.

Unlocking the Secrets of 501 Scoring

Back when I was a darting greenhorn, just hoping to hit the dart at the board with every throw, I couldn’t fathom the depths of strategy that came with scoring in 501. Over time, with countless hours at the oche and many humbling defeats, I learned that there’s an art and science to effective scoring. There are certain paths to take, traps to avoid, and moments of sheer audacity that can make all the difference.

Outer Bull25
Triple Ringx3 of segment number
Double Ringx2 of segment number
SingleSegment number
Scoring Areas and Their Points

From Triple 20s to Bullseyes: Optimal Scoring Strategies

The treble 20 – or the “red bit” as my old mate Gary used to call it – is the highest scoring segment on the dartboard. Hitting it consistently can quickly bring down your score. However, while it’s the go-to for many, it’s not the only scoring strategy in 501. Depending on your comfort zones, the state of the game, and even how your darts are sitting in the board, you might choose to target other trebles like 19s or 18s.

Another strategy is the bullseye. While it’s a riskier shot, two bullseyes followed by a treble 20 will land you a neat 170, the highest possible checkout. It’s moves like these that can shift the momentum of a game and leave your opponent dazzled.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Ah, pitfalls! I’ve encountered many in my darting journey, and they’ve taught me valuable lessons:

  1. Chasing the Game: Often, players get fixated on hitting a specific number, throwing dart after dart and missing repeatedly. It’s essential to recognize when it’s not your day with a certain number and switch to a different strategy.
  2. Ignoring the Setup: Focusing solely on scoring and neglecting to set up potential finishes can put you in tricky positions. Before you throw a dart, always be thinking a few throws ahead.
  3. Underestimating Your Opponent: This isn’t just about scoring, but overall strategy. Watch your opponent’s scores, anticipate their moves, and adjust your game accordingly.

For those keen on delving even deeper into scoring systems and methods, I’ve penned down my years of experience and insights into a comprehensive guide on the topic: Essential Guide to Darts 501 Scoring Strategies!.

And for the daredevils out there, aiming to achieve darting perfection with a 9 dart finish, I’ve got something special for you. Check out my guide on how to etch your name in darting folklore: How to score a Darts 501 9 Darter! Achieve the Unthinkable!.

The World of Darts Checkouts

Always check out with a double. Here you can see a dart in the double 20 section.
Always check out with a double

I’ll never forget that evening when I was introduced to the intriguing world of darts checkouts. I was at my local pub, nervously clutching my darts, aiming to finish a tight game of 501. As I eyed the dartboard, calculating the best way to check out from 68, an older player leaned over and whispered, “Treble 20, double 4.” I followed his advice, and to my amazement, I sealed the game. That’s when I truly realized the beauty and complexity of darts checkouts.

Understanding the Checkout Chart and Combination Finishes

A checkout chart isn’t just a list of numbers; it’s a roadmap to victory in a game of 501 darts. Understanding this chart can be the difference between a win and a loss. Essentially, it offers the most efficient routes to finish a game based on your remaining score. These routes often involve combination finishes, where three darts are used in sequence to bring your score on the scoreboard to zero.

For instance, if you’ve got 81 left, the chart might suggest a treble 15 followed by a double 18. It might sound complicated at first, but with time and practice, these combinations become second nature.

The tricky part is that there’s often more than one way to checkout a particular score. And that’s where strategy comes into play. Depending on your strengths and the state of the game, you might choose a different route than what the chart suggests.

If you’re new to the game or looking to up your finishing game, checkout charts can be a game-changer. I’ve created a comprehensive Darts 501 Checkout Chart: Free download that has aided many in their darting journeys. It is a fantastic tool to have, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player.

Darts Average

Darts average is a measure of a player’s skill level. It is calculated by taking the total number of points scored in a game and dividing it by the number of darts thrown, then multiplying by 3. For example, if a player scores 320 points in a game and throws 18 darts, their darts average would be 53.33.

There are two different formulas for calculating darts average, depending on whether the player has won or lost the game.

Darts Average Formula While Playing the Game / When You Have Lost the Game

(Points scored / thrown darts) * 3

Darts Average Formula When You Have Won the Game

(501 / thrown darts) * 3

This formula is used to calculate a player’s darts average when they have won the game. For example, if a player has won the game in 18 darts, their darts average would be 83.5.

To learn more about darts average and how to calculate it, please see my article “How to Calculate Darts Average: a Comprehensive Guide“.

Variations and Twists: Keeping 501 Darts Fresh

One of the most wonderful evenings I recall was when I introduced my friends to a game of darts at my home. A casual game of 501 turned into hours of competitive fun as we began to experiment with different versions and team setups. We laughed, groaned at missed doubles, and cheered at unexpected bullseyes. It was a testament to how 501 darts, despite its age and tradition, can always be refreshed with some inventive tweaks.

Different Versions of 501 to Spice Up Your Game

The beauty of 501 lies in its adaptability. While the core objective remains the same – reduce your score from 501 to zero – the house rules can be modified to offer new challenges. For instance:

  • Blind 501: You don’t get to see your score or what’s left. It’s all about intuition and memory!
  • No Trebles: As the name suggests, you’re not allowed to score on treble segments. It tests your ability to strategize and adapt.
  • Bullseye Start: Before you can start deducting your score, you need to hit a bullseye. Sounds easy? Give it a try!

2-Player, 3-Player Games: Guidelines and Unique Strategies

While 501 is traditionally played head-to-head, adding more players brings a new dynamic to the game:

And if you’re really wanting to delve into the strategic depths of the game, understanding sets and legs can provide a competitive edge. For those looking for insights into this aspect, my Master 501 Darts Sets and Legs: Your Guide to the Game is a must-read.

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Golden Nuggets: Expert Tips and Tactics

There’s a quaint pub in the heart of London where I had one of the most memorable games of 501 darts. Against a seasoned local champion, I started strong, maintained my momentum, and, to the amazement of the onlookers, finished with a flourish. That night wasn’t just about the win; it was about the realization that with the right strategy, anyone can transform their game. Here, I’d like to share some of those insights.

Mastering Darts 501 The Best guide to Playing Correctly - Tips

Starting Strong and Maintaining Momentum

The beginning of a 501 darts game is crucial. A strong start can not only put you ahead but can also set the tone for the rest of the game. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Mindset: Approach the oche with confidence. A positive mindset can significantly influence your throw.
  • First Dart: Your initial dart sets the tone. Aim for high-scoring sections to gain an early lead.
  • Consistency: It’s not just about high scores, but regularity. Try to consistently hit your desired segments to maintain your momentum.

Positioning for a Triumphant 501 Game Ending

As the saying goes, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” While a strong beginning is essential, wrapping up the game with finesse is equally vital. Here are some tactics:

  • Plan Ahead: When you’re nearing the end, think a few throws in advance. Consider possible combinations to hit that winning double.
  • Pressure Handling: The final darts can be nerve-wracking. Practice under pressure scenarios to better handle such situations in real games.

For an in-depth look at finishing techniques, be sure to check out Finish Strong! Expert Tactics for a Stunning Darts 501 Ending!.

Utilizing Technology: Top 501 Darts Scorer Apps Reviewed

The modern darter has a secret weapon: technology. Darts scorer apps have transformed the way we play and analyze our game. From tracking progress to simulating pressure situations, these tools are invaluable. I’ve spent countless hours reviewing various apps and have compiled my top recommendations. To get the lowdown on the best scoring apps available, take a look at Discover the Top 501 Score Darts Apps! A Clear Comparison.

App NamePlatformFeatures
Essential Darts ScoreboardAndroidScoring, Stats, Multiplayer
Russ Bray Darts ScorerAndroid, iOSTraining, Scoring, Video Analysis
Winmau Darts ScorerAndroid, iOSScoring, Online Play, Tournaments
Top 3 Darts Scoring Apps


One balmy evening in Amsterdam, I found myself in a lively pub, surrounded by avid darts players. The clinking of glasses, the soft hum of conversations, and the rhythmic thud of darts meeting the board created an ambiance like no other. It was there that a seasoned player, with silver hair and a glint in his eyes, shared a piece of wisdom: “Mastering 501 darts isn’t a destination; it’s a continuous journey.”

The beauty of 501 darts lies not just in hitting the bullseye or scoring that perfect finish. It’s in the camaraderie, the strategy, the highs and lows, and most importantly, in the lessons we learn with each throw. Every game offers a new perspective, a new challenge, and a fresh opportunity to better ourselves.

As you delve deeper into the world of 501 darts, remember that perfection isn’t the goal; it’s the continuous pursuit of improvement. Embrace every moment, learn from every miss, and celebrate every triumph.

And this journey doesn’t end here. There are numerous facets to explore, strategies to uncover, and stories to share. I invite you to delve deeper, unearth more insights, and join me on this fascinating voyage through the world of darts. For those eager to continue this exploration, I recommend starting with some of the articles that have personally enlightened and inspired my own journey. Discover the Top 501 Darts Scorer App Today! and Finish Strong! Expert Tactics for a Stunning Darts 501 Ending! are just the beginning.

Thank you for accompanying me on this narrative. Here’s to many more bullseyes and unforgettable darts moments!

Your Next Steps

While understanding 501 darts is a thrilling journey, diving deeper into the world of darts reveals a plethora of game styles awaiting your mastery. Darts isn’t just about scoring down from 501 or aiming for a bullseye. It encompasses a variety of exciting play styles, strategies, and nuances that can keep you engaged for a lifetime. If you’re truly passionate about embracing every facet of this fantastic sport, you’ll want to explore beyond just one game mode. We invite you to journey with us further and unearth the diverse world of dart games. Check out my Dart Games 101: Your Start to Mastering Every Play Style and embark on a new chapter of your darting adventure.

Frequently asked questions

What is a double in darts?

In darts, a double refers to the outer ring on the dartboard. To score points and complete the game, players must hit a double.

How is Darts 501 played?

A darts 501 game is played by throwing darts at a dartboard. Each player starts with a score of 501 points and must subtract the number of points they hit with each dart thrown. The player who reaches exactly zero points, by hitting a double, wins the game.

What are the rules of Darts 501?

The rules of Darts 501 are as follows: Each player starts with a score of 501 points and throw 3 darts per turn. The scores are subtracted from the player’s score and darts need to be thrown until they reach exactly zero. To complete the game, the player must hit a double that makes their score reach zero points. For example, if you have 20 points left, you’ll need a double 10 to finish the game.

What is the purpose of the outer ring in darts?

The outer ring in darts serves as the double ring. To score and complete the game, players must hit a double, which means landing a dart in the outer ring.

What is the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC)?

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) is a professional organization that organizes darts events and tournaments, including the World Darts Championship.

What is the Darts Regulation Authority (DRA)?

The Darts Regulation Authority (DRA) is an organization that oversees the rules and regulations of professional darts, ensuring fair play and maintaining standards in the sport.

How many points is a double worth?

A double in darts is worth double the number of points indicated on the dartboard. E.g, hitting a double 8 would score 16 points.

How many points does a player need to reach to complete the game?

In Darts 501, the player needs to reach exactly zero points to complete the game.

Can a player use any dartboard for Darts 501?

Yes, darts can be played on any traditional pub game dartboard or a professional standard dartboard approved by the Darts Regulation Authority (DRA).

How many legs are usually played in a game of Darts 501?

In a game of Darts 501, several legs are usually played. The player who wins the most legs wins the darts match.