What are the rules of darts, what’s an oche and everything else you need to know

Everything you need to know from pub games to the Alexandra Palace.

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The mad world of darts can seem a little confusing to a novice, but once you know the basics the rest are easy to pick up.

And, with Paddy Power sponsoring the 2024 PDC World Darts Championship at the Alexandra Palace this year, we thought we’d answer some of your burning questions ahead of the biggest tungsten tournament on the planet.

What are the rules of darts?

If you’re starting out playing or wanting to watch the World Darts Championship the first question you’ll have is, what are the rules of darts? Well, essentially, the object of darts is to reach zero from a pre-arranged total, usually 501, before your opponent does.

Players take it in turns to throw three darts each with the tally added up and subtracted from the initial score.

Each subsequent total is deducted from the previous score until a player ‘checks out’ by hitting a double. For example, if a player has 40 remaining and they hit the treble 20 before their opponent has checked out then they win the leg.

In competitions players compete to win legs in a straight ‘best of’ format or, as in the World Darts Championship, players win legs to win sets which decide the outcome.

The board is circular with a number of scoring zones which value 1 to 20 around the board. In the middle is the bullseye which is worth 50. That’s surrounded by the Outer Bull which is worth 25.

Every other number from 1-20 has a thin outer area called the double and one in an inner ring called a treble where you double or treble your score on each segment if hit.

Why is it called an oche?

If you’ve watched live darts for any amount of time you might be left wondering, why is it called an oche or the oche.

The oche is basically the line that the players have to stand behind to throw the darts to ensure there’s a uniform distance from the board and that no one gains an unfair advantage.

The actual term oche derives from France and meant ‘an incision made to keep a record’ but migrated to mean to make a notch or a mark in English around the 16th century. Hence, the players have to stand behind a pre-arranged mark called the oche.

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How far away is the dart board in darts?

How far away is the dart board in darts is an often-asked question and it’s one with a very specific answer. It’s exactly 7′ 9.25″ from the oche.

What is a dartboard made of?

In the game’s early days the board was made from elm wood but it was high maintenance and didn’t last that long. These days it’s a completely different story. So what is a dartboard made of now?

Modern darts boards are made from a material called sisal fiber which comes from the agave plant and is perfect because it’s strong, flexible, easy to paint and incredibly durable.

Why is it called a bullseye? Why is it not the highest-scoring throw in darts?

The small red circle in the center of the board is called the bullseye and many people wonder why is it not the highest-scoring throw in darts.

The treble 20 is the highest-value segment on the board, then the treble 19, treble 18 and treble 17 who are all worth more than the bullseye when hit by a single dart.

But why is it called a bullseye when all the others are multiples of numbers? Well, like many things in darts the origins go back hundreds of years.

The term originated from English shooting tournaments in the 1880s where competitors would shout ‘bullseye!’ if they hit the middle of the target – just as it is on a darts board. Back then it was black and looked like a shilling which had the nickname bulls eye.

Darts rules

Darts rules are as simple as two players take it in turns to throw three darts each at a board until one of them reaches zero by scoring a double.

Darts Measurements

If you’re wondering about darts measurements then you’re in the right place. The board is 7′ 9.25″ from the oche which is 2.37m if that’s your preferred measurement of choice.

And, while we’re at it, the bullseye is 5′ 8″ or 1.73m from the floor in case you were wondering.

When was Darts invented

Darts history goes back centuries, or at least as long as people have thrown pointy objects at solid things to see what would happen. The question of when was darts invented is impossible to answer exactly, but it’s believed the earliest origin came as a military pastime about 700 years ago.

As for when darts was invented in its current format, that’s a little easier to pin down. Darts was invented by a carpenter from Lancashire called Brian Gamlin in 1896 when he invented the number system, otherwise known as the layout of the board still used to this day.

Darts, how do darts work and how are darts created?

The actual dart used in competition can vary in weight but they are all long with a point at one end and a stabilising flight at the other. The flight is shaped like an X and attached to the rear, but is easily detachable to prevent it from breaking if hit on the board or if the dart falls out of the board.

The metallic body of the dart is predominantly made from tungsten with many of the pros opting to use 90% tungsten. However, the metal is mixed with others, depending on player preference, as alone it would be too brittle for last.

Darts Referee

One of the immediate things you’ll notice when watching a live match is the darts referee. They can be quite entertaining and notorious referees like Russ Bray gain worldwide fame for their styles when calling out each players’ score, specifically 180s.

Their main role is to keep score and quickly reveal what each player has got per turn. They’ll also tell players what they require for a checkout when the score is low enough for a leg to be won in that turn. Excellent math skills are essential if you want to be a darts referee!

how darts points work

The key to playing a game is understanding how darts points work. Whether you’re playing at home with friends or competing for the World Darts Championship, the scoring system remains the same which makes darts a pure sport for all.

There are five different scoring areas on the board. There are singles of each number from 1-20 as well as doubles on the outer ring and trebles on the inner ring which are worth, you guessed it, double or treble of the 1-20 number they’re housed in.

There’s also the Bulls Eye, the small red area in the centre of the board, which is worth 50 and the Outer Bull which is worth 25. To win most games of darts you are required to hit a double to checkout, or reach zero, and the bulls eye counts as a double if you need 50 to win the leg.

What is a 9-darter & how many have there been?

If you’re watching darts highlights on YouTube or one of the big events on the telly you’ll hear people occasionally getting very excited about something called a nine darter. A nine darter is the pinnacle of the game as it is uses fewest darts possible to get from 501 to zero, to checkout, and to win a leg.

How many nine darters have there been? It’s impossible to say how many nine darters there have been in the history of the game as professional players could hit a couple a week when practicing but hitting them in televised games is the holy grail of nine darters and, at the time of writing, there have been 64 broadcast live.

Why start on 501?

Professional darts matches require a score of 501 to win a leg which leads to the obvious question – why start on 501? Effectively it’s to make the game harder and add an element of challenge into it for the best in the business.

Adding an odd number to the target means players have to navigate their way around the board rather than just going for the highest score on the board, the treble 20, all the time.

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