How To Play 501 Darts: Mastering The Game With Precision And Skill

Table of Contents

Darts is a popular and engaging game played by millions around the world, with 501 being the most common variant. Learning to play 501 darts can open up opportunities to engage in friendly competitions or even participate in professional leagues.

This game challenges your accuracy, strategy, and mental arithmetic while providing endless fun and excitement.

Whether you’re a seasoned player looking to improve your skills or a complete beginner starting your darts journey, grasping the basics of 501 darts is essential.

It involves understanding the game’s rules, getting familiar with the equipment required, and acquiring strategies to enhance your gameplay.

As you progress, you’ll inevitably learn about common mistakes and how to avoid them while constantly developing your scores to become a better darts player.

Key Takeaways

  • Master the basics of 501 darts, including rules, equipment, and strategies
  • Learn from common mistakes and improve your skills with practice
  • Maintain your darts equipment and stay informed to excel in the game

How To Play 501 Darts?

Playing 501 darts is quite straightforward, but you need to grasp some essential rules and concepts before getting started.

In 501 darts, both players or teams begin with a score of 501 points. Your goal is to reduce your score to zero as quickly as possible by throwing darts and accumulating points.

Each player takes alternating turns to throw three darts at the dartboard. After each throw, you subtract the points scored from your total. The first player or team to reach exactly zero wins the game.

However, there’s a catch: you must end the game with a double score, which means your last dart must land on one of the double sections in the outer ring of the dartboard or the bullseye (the game is often called a “double-out” game for this reason).

When starting a game of 501 darts, it’s essential to keep track of your remaining score, as it will help you plan your next moves.

For example, if you have 70 points left, you might aim for a triple 20 (60 points) followed by a double 5 (10 points) to finish the game.

Another important aspect to consider when learning how to play 501 darts is the concept of “doubling in.” In some variations of the game, players must first hit a double section to start scoring points.

This rule adds a layer of challenge and strategy to matches, as players need to balance accuracy and scoring opportunities right from the beginning.

As with any sport, practice is key to mastering 501 darts. Familiarize yourself with the dartboard’s layout and invest time in refining your throwing technique.

Remember also that in darts, consistency is crucial. It’s better to consistently hit lower-scoring sections than to hit high-scoring sections sporadically.

Follow these guidelines, and soon enough, you’ll be well on your way to becoming proficient in the game of 501 darts.

Equipment Needed

Dart Board

To play 501 darts, you first need a dartboard.

The most common type is a standard bristle dartboard, which is 18 inches in diameter and divided into 20 numbered sections, each worth a different amount of points.

Make sure the dartboard is hung at a height of 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters) from the floor to the center of the bullseye.

When setting up your dartboard, ensure that it’s securely fastened to the wall and that there’s a suitable distance between the throwing line (oche) and the board.

The standard distance for the oche is typically 7 feet 9.25 inches (2.37 meters) from the dartboard.


In addition to a dartboard, you will need a set of three darts per player.

Darts come in various materials, weights, and designs, so choose one that feels comfortable in your hand and suits your throwing style.

When selecting darts, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

  • Weight: Darts generally range from 16 to 26 grams. Heavier darts may be more stable in flight, while lighter ones could be easier to control.
  • Grip: The dart barrel should offer an appropriate grip without feeling too rough or slippery.
  • Shaft: The shaft connects the barrel to the flight. It can be made of different materials like plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Choose a shaft that provides a proper balance for your darts.

By acquiring the right equipment and a basic understanding of the game, you’re well on your way to enjoying 501 darts with friends or in competition settings.

Basic Rules of 501 Darts

Starting the Game

To begin a game of 501 darts, first decide who will start by tossing a coin or throwing darts at the bullseye, with the closest one going first.

Both players or teams start with a score of 501 points. Each player takes alternating turns throwing their darts at the dartboard.


Try to score as many points as possible during your turn with your three darts.

The points scored are subtracted from your total, and then the opposing player or team does the same. Keep track of the scores throughout the game to strategize your throws.

For example:

  • Triple 20 scores 60 points (20 x 3)
  • Double 19 scores 38 points (19 x 2)
  • Single 5 scores 5 points (5 x 1)

Aiming for higher scores like triple 20s is essential to reduce your total faster.

Out Shots

To win the game, you need to checkout on a double or the bullseye. This means your final dart must land on a double (outer ring) or the bullseye (inner circle).

The complexity of scoring and doubling out adds tension and suspense to the game. Here are some example out shots:

  • Double 16 (32 points)
  • Double 8 (16 points)
  • Bullseye (50 points)

Plan your dart throws accordingly, ensuring that your last dart lands on a double or the bullseye when your score is low enough.

Strategies for 501 Darts

Double Start

In 501 Darts, doubling is an essential skill to master. It refers to hitting a double on the dartboard before any of your other darts count towards reducing your score.

Start by aiming for the double 20 or the bullseye, as they are the highest-scoring doubles, worth 40 and 50 points, respectively.

As you familiarize yourself with the game, you must identify which doubles work best for you and consistently target them, as consistency plays a key role in your success.

Triple 20 Strategy

Focusing on the Triple 20 is a popular strategy in 501 Darts because it offers the highest single-dart score of 60.

To implement this strategy, hone your skills in consistently hitting the Triple 20, allowing you to reduce your score more quickly than relying on lower-scoring alternatives.

Don’t forget to adjust your aim if your darts are blocking the Triple 20 section.

In such cases, the Triple 19 can serve as an effective alternative since it’s the second-highest scoring section on the board.

Double Out Strategy

To win a game of 501 Darts, you must reduce your score to zero by checking out on a double or the bullseye.

Therefore, mastering double-outs becomes critical, as it ultimately determines your victory. To improve your chances, memorize common checkouts (finishing combinations) and practice finishing on your preferred doubles.

Furthermore, always calculate the remaining score and be mindful of when you should switch to lower-scoring sections to avoid busting (a situation where you score more than your remaining total).

Utilizing these essential strategies – Double Start, Triple 20 Strategy, and Double Out Strategy –you can gain a competitive edge and increase your chances of success in 501 Darts.

Remember to practice consistently and adapt your strategy as needed to react to varying in-game situations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When playing 501 darts, it is essential to avoid common mistakes to improve your game.

This section will guide you through some of the critical pitfalls to steer clear of, enhancing your performance and helping you become a better darts player.


One of the most common mistakes in darts is overthrowing or using too much force when throwing.

Overthrowing can cause your darts to miss the target, bounce off the board, or even damage the surrounding area.

To avoid overthrowing, work on honing your aim and finding the right balance between power and control.

Remember to focus on your grip, stance, and follow-through to ensure a smooth and accurate release.

Neglecting Low-Value Doubles

Many players aim exclusively for high-value doubles like double 20, ignoring the potential of smaller but equally important lower numbers.

While it’s true that hitting higher-value doubles reduces your score faster, neglecting low-value doubles limits your options and makes it more challenging to finish the game.

Remember that every double on the board plays a role and can help you finish the game, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.

Ignoring the Bullseye

Some players tend to focus on doubles and triples when playing 501 darts, overlooking the significance of the bullseye.

However, the bullseye serves two purposes: it’s worth 50 points when hit and counts as a double when you’re doubling in or doubling out.

Therefore, incorporating the bullseye into your strategy can give you a competitive edge and help you close out games more efficiently.

Remember to practice aiming for the bullseye and consider it an option when planning your path to victory.

By avoiding these common mistakes and concentrating on your strategy and technique, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the game of 501 darts.

Improving Your Skills

Practice Routines

To become better at 501 Darts, it’s essential to have consistent and effective practice routines. Start by dedicating time each day to practicing specific aspects.

For instance, focus on hitting double 20 or the bullseye, the highest-scoring targets.

Aim to practice for around 15-20 minutes daily, gradually increasing the time as your skills improve.

Another great exercise is to familiarize yourself with popular checkout combinations, as knowing the proper sequence can make or break your game.

Check out a list of effective 501 darts strategies and practice finishing on specific doubles.

Mental Strategy

Aside from physical practice, developing a strong mental strategy is also vital. Begin by building a pre-game routine to help you enter a relaxed and focused state of mind.

Deep breaths and visualizing successful plays can go a long way in staying calm under pressure.

During the game, bear in mind that every dart throw counts. Maintain a positive outlook, and even if you’re behind in points, remember that anything can happen during a match.

Focus on your target, trust your skills, and believe in your ability to hit the crucial combinations when it matters most.

A strong mental approach and consistent practice will significantly enhance your performance in the 501 Darts game.

Dart Maintenance

Keeping Darts Sharp

Proper dart maintenance is essential to ensure that your darts perform at their best. Keeping your darts sharp is one key aspect to consider.

A sharp dart tip will provide a better grip on the dartboard and minimize bounce-outs. You can use a dart sharpener or fine-grit sandpaper to sharpen your darts.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold your dart at a 45-degree angle to the sharpener or sandpaper.
  2. Rotate the dart while applying light pressure against the sharpener.
  3. Continue sharpening until the tip is fine and smooth, without any burrs.

Remember not to over-sharpen them, as excessively sharp tips can damage the dartboard and make it wear out faster.

Caring for Dartboard

Taking care of your dartboard is equally important to prolong its lifespan and ensure optimal playing experience.

Follow these steps to maintain your dartboard:

  • Rotation: Regularly rotate your dartboard to evenly distribute wear and avoid damage to specific areas. Most dartboards have numbers that can be removed so you can easily rotate the board.
  • Cleaning: It’s essential to keep your dartboard clean to maintain its appearance and performance. Gently brush the surface with a soft-bristle brush to remove dust and debris, but avoid using water or cleaning solutions.
  • Storage: Store your dartboard in a dry and cool place, away from direct sunlight or humidity, to prevent warping or color fading.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your darts and dartboard stay in top condition and provide an enjoyable playing experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the standard scoring method in 501 darts?

In 501 darts, each player begins with 501 points. The objective is to reduce your score to zero as quickly as possible. You subtract the points you earn with each throw from your total score.

To win, you must reach zero by throwing a dart that lands in a double segment or the bullseye on your final throw.

How does the double-in, double-out rule work in 501 darts?

The double-in, double-out rule requires that each player starts and ends the game by hitting a double on the dartboard.

This means that the first dart must land in a double segment to begin scoring, and the last dart must also land in a double segment or the bullseye to win the game.

What is the significance of ‘bust’ in 501 Darts game?

A ‘bust’ in 501 darts occurs when a player’s throw results in a score that would take them below zero or to a value that cannot be finished with a double.

When this happens, the player’s score for that turn is void, and they must try again during their next turn, beginning with their previous score before the bust occurred.

What is the typical throwing distance in a 501 darts match?

The standard throwing distance in a 501 darts match is measured from the front of the dartboard to the oche, which is the line behind which players must stand while throwing.

This distance is typically 7 feet 9.25 inches (237 centimeters).

Can you explain the difference between 301 and 501 darts games?

The primary difference between 301 and 501 darts games lies in the starting score. In a 301 game, each player starts with 301 points, while in a 501 game, they begin with 501 points.

This difference affects the game’s length, with 501 typically taking more turns and requiring more strategy to finish quickly.

Are there any specific strategies for improving the consistency in a 501 Darts game?

To improve consistency in a 501 darts game, focus on developing a smooth, repetitive throwing motion.

Practice often, working on your grip, stance, and release. Additionally, aim for the “treble 20” segment, which offers the highest score of 60 points per dart.

You can reduce your total score more quickly and efficiently by consistently scoring high.

Remember to practice hitting doubles to ensure you can double in and double out during a game.

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 Jason Greeves

Jason Greeves

Darts are more than just a bar game. It requires concentration and an hand-eye coordination gift from heaven.
But it also takes a good board to get really good. And no one knows dart boards more than me.

About Me

Darts are more than just a bar game. It requires concentration and an hand-eye coordination gift from heaven.
But it also takes a good board to get really good. And no one knows dart boards more than me.

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