If you have ever watched a professional darts match on TV, chances are they were playing a game of 501 darts. 501 is the most common dart game that is played around the world a will likely be the first game you will learn.

It is a great game to play one on one, with teams or even just alone.

Below we will discuss the basics of the game in detail as well as cover some tips and strategies that will help new players.

Note that just about every game of darts does have variations. These are just an outline and can be changed to suit your skill level or play style.

Quick Look At 501 Darts
Number of players 1-Unlimited, can also be played with teams.
Numbers in play All numbers are in play.
Goal Starting at a score of 501, be the first to reduce your score to zero by deducting your total points each round

What Are The Rules For 501 Darts?

Both dart players or dart teams start with a score of 501 points. They then take alternating turns at throwing their darts at the dartboard. The points scored on the board are removed from the 501 points, and then the opposing player/team does the same.

The first to reach 0 wins. However before you can start deducting points, you must double in, and to complete the game you must double out. This adds a bit more skill to the game as well as strategy when it comes to planning a finish.

Usually, a coin is tossed to see who goes first. Alternatively, you can each throw a dart at the board and whoever is closest to the bullseye can go first.

Doubling in

Before you can start subtracting your score from the 501, you must first hit one of the double spaces around the outer ring of the board. The is called “doubling in.”

Any dart you throw before you double in does not count towards your score. You can also double in on the center bullseye as this spot is considered to be a double as well (double bull).

When doubling in, the double 20 or the double bull are the two most desirable targets as they are worth the most points (40 and 50). If you are playing with teams, only one member of your team needs to double in.

Once a player on the team has doubled in, that dart and all following darts that team throws count to reduce the score.

Getting Your Score Down in 501

Once you or someone on your team has doubled in, the objective is to score as many points per round as possible. This is generally done by shooting for the triple 20 as it is the highest scoring target on the board.

Three triple 20s will give you a score of 180 points, which is the highest that can be scored in one round. There are sometimes when you may want to shoot for another target.

If one of your darts block the triple 20, you may want to aim for the triple 19 instead, for a cleaner shot. You may also start shooting for other targets when your score is getting low enough to finish, and you want to set up your double out.

How Do You Win 501 Darts?

To win a game of 501 darts, you must double out the same way you doubled in. Doubling out, however, can be a bit trickier.

When doubling in, you are free to hit any double target on the board to get things started. When doubling out, you must hit a double that will land you precisely on 0 points to win the game.

It is essential that you do not score more than what you have remaining, this will result in a bust, and your turn will be over. Double bull is the highest target you can double out on, being worth 50 points. After that would be the double 20 worth 40 points.

Scoring 501 Darts

One person is usually assigned to keep score. This person is known as the marker. The chalkboard will be divided at the center with a line down that middle and each teams score will be calculated on their respective side.

After 3 darts have been thrown, the marker will add up the score on the board and deduct it from the running total on the chalkboard. The marker must keep full attention to everything that is happening including verifying what has been thrown and keeping track of whose turn it is.

501 Darts Variations

There are a few variations to the game depending on where and with who you are playing.

The most significant variation is the option to double in. In professional darts, you do not need to double in before you start subtracting from your score. This is done to speed up the pace and action of the game. If you watch darts on TV, you will notice they start each round by immediately trying to score as many points as possible.

When playing with uneven teams, you may need to introduce a dummy (fake) player into the playing cycle. This dummy player would have a predetermined fixed score each round dependant on the skill levels of the other players and that score will be deducted from the running total when it is the dummies “turn.”

501 Darts Tips

  • For newer players, doubling in on the sides is recommended (11 or 6) If you overthrow or your dart drops, there is a good chance it will hit the double directly above or below.
  • If you are entirely new and having a hard time hitting anything you aim for, try going for the triple 14. 11, 9, 12, 8 are all around here and can add up much quicker than landing 3 darts in the 1 while aiming for the 20.
  • When you are getting ready to double out, it’s always good to plan ahead. 32 is the magic number. If you single 16, you are left with double 8 which is right next door. Hit the single 8 and you have double 4 left and so on, right down to double 1. Of course, this strategy is not always required. A similar option is double 20, 10, 5.
  • If you need to double out and are stuck on an odd number aim for the bottom of the board (7, 19, 3, 17). As long as you don’t bust, this should bring you back to an even double out.

Have any 501 tips for you fellow darters? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

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