How Does Dartboard Scoring Work?

You’ve rocked up at the local pub with a few friends and notice that the dartboard in the corner is free.

One of your friends challenges you to a game of darts, the trouble is – you’ve never played before or don’t know how to keep track of the score. What do you do?

Well, here is our brief introduction to darts scoring and how you should record the scores to make sure you can keep a record of beating your friends!

501 (or 301) darts games start with each player on 501 (or 301) points. Each player takes it in turns to throw three darts at the board resulting in a score. The objective is to get your score to zero in fewer darts than your opponent.

Now, there are a lot of variations of the traditional darts games, some common games include, cricket (not the English sport played outside only when it’s sunny!), sudden death, around the clock and many many more.

In this article we’ll be focussing on the more traditional 501 game you’ll probably play the most. As with any game, if you find a variation that you find the most fun or invent your own rules to add a twist go for it!

The 501/301 Game

The traditional game of darts starts with each player having a score of 501 points.

The objective is to get your score to zero quicker than your opponent. This is done by throwing darts at the board in groups of 3. After you’ve thrown your first 3 darts it’s then your opponents turn to do the same. You continue to rotate turns until someone gets to zero.

Sounds simple right? It is!

But to keep track of the score there are a few things you need to know scoring on a dartboard.

The dartboard is split up into 20 segments numbered from 1 to 20, these numbers are scattered randomly around the board, no-one is quite sure how dartboards ended up with this pattern of numbers but it’s a firm part of the game now.

Each number shows the score for that segment of the board, this image shows that the 13 covers the area from the outer red segment, the black segment inside that, the green segment inside that and finally the next black segment.

So far, so good. Now things start to get interesting, you’ll notice all the different rings around the board, the outer ring is known as the double ring. If your dart lands in any of these segments the score shown around the outside of the board gets doubled. So in our earlier example above, if your dart strikes the red outer segment your 13 would double to 26.

Likewise, the inner circle is called a treble. Any dart that lands in that segment is triples in score, so our 13 would become 39 instead for that dart only. The rest of the segment doesn’t change scores, just any throws that land on the two lines shown in blue in the below image.

Finally we have the bullseye. This is at the middle of the board and doesn’t follow the rules of the outer scoring segments. Instead it has a red ‘inner bull’ and green ‘outer bull’. The inner bull is worth 50 points while the outer bull is worth just 25. It’s a common misconception about darts that hitting the bullseye is the highest score on the board when in fact it isn’t. The best throw for a single dart is to hit the triple 20 which would score you 60 points for a single throw.

Anything that strikes the board outside of the double ring scores 0.

Based on what we now know, the best score you can get with your 3 darts is 180 (3 sets of triple 20).

Finishing and checkout tables

There are a few additional rules you need to be aware of which will help you score correctly.

To finish a game of darts you need to finish on a double. That means if you find yourself needing 18 to get down to 0 you could finish with a single dart in double 9, but not the single 18.

Following on our example above, here are a few possibilities that could be thrown to finish the game and get to 0:

The single dart finish could be double 9.

A two dart finish could be a 10 and then double 4 (there are lots of 2 dart finish options for 18 – this is just one example)

This is where a bit of maths comes in handy, since you have to finish on a double you’ll need to make sure you know how to quickly double numbers up to 20 in your head.

For a bit of a helping hand, you can download out dart checkout table which shows you the 2 and 3 dart finishes up to a score of 170!

Get the checkout table here

Each ‘game’ of darts (when 1 player gets to 0) is called a ‘leg’. You then play darts over a number of legs to make a match, you should agree this with your friends before starting, otherwise you can easily end up with ‘just one more leg’ syndrome where you’re trying to keep playing to catch up!

Keeping track of scores

The easiest way to keep track of the scores, unless you’re playing with an electronic dartboard, is to have a piece of paper to hand and set it out like this:

To fill out the scoreboard you simply add up the total of each 3 throws and put that in the ‘scored’ column. You then subtract this from the ‘To Go’ column above. For example, after a throw of 3 darts, if player 1 scored 180 on their first go the score sheet would look like this:

Player 1 has 321 more points to score after their 180 score with their first 3 darts to get down to zero (remembering that they must end on a double!). This is arrived at by taking 180 away from 501:

501 – 180 = 321

So, there you have it. You’re now ready to score any darts match with uses an ‘01’ scoring system. If you find 501 takes to long, try starting at 301 or even 201 until you’re hitting the board consistently. Happy throwing!