Every sport has its etiquette. Some of these etiquette rules may be unwritten and unspoken, while others may be already deeply set into stone.
Darts is no different.
There are some darts etiquette rules that beginners may not know.
In fact, for a bar game, you may end up being very surprised by how many different etiquette rules there are. But there are there for a reason. Following these etiquette rules makes darts a lot more fluid, satisfying, and avoids any awkward (and dangerous!) moments.
Besides, just because it started as a bar or a pub game does not mean it should be chaotic.
Knowing and following the proper darts etiquette is also about honoring and respecting your opponent, other darts players, the chalker, and all the people around you.
These are the most common darts etiquette rules:
Each Game of Darts Starts and Finishes With a Handshake
A firm and cordial handshake is nothing less than showing good sportsmanship and respect to your opponent. It does not matter whether you like them as a person or not, as this is not the time for personal liking but the time to set the right tone.
Every game of darts should start with a proper firm handshake. Wish your opponent well.
When the game ends, regardless of what the scoreboard says, win or lose, again give your opponent a proper handshake and a warm and sincere thank you for the game played.
However, do not forget about the chalker. Shake hands with the chalker when the game starts and ends as well. A good chalker can make all the difference, and I am sure you know how hard it is to be a good chalker. It is a very tough role and oftentimes not given the recognition it deserves.
Conversely, a good handshake goes further than that. A good and firm handshake can be a great way to establish dominance early on. A strong handshake can affect the confidence of your opponent on a subconscious level. (We all know how important a handshake can be in a business environment.)
After all, darts is just about as psychological as it is about mechanical consistency in throws and aim. And a good handshake can cause your opponent to feel less relaxed.
Do Not Distract Your Opponent
After the game starts, make sure not to distract your opponent. The last thing you want is to have someone distracting you while you aim and throw, so make sure you do not do the same to your opponent, both consciously and unconsciously.
Give your opponent some private space and do not stand closer than 2 feet (or about 61 cm) to them.
Do not stand directly to the right or the left of your opponent. Stand to the rear or behind your opponent so that you remain out of their line of sight.
If your opponent or teammate asks you to move, move even if you believe you are standing in a good spot.
When you are behind your opponent and as you wait for them to throw, do not play or rattle your darts. Avoid, in general, making any annoying or distracting noises or sounds. (Sighs, playing knee drums, or tapping your foot on the floor are all no-nos.)
If you happen to drop your darts, for example, somewhere near your opponent’s feet as they are throwing, don’t pick them up or move. Just wait for them to finish their throw. Only after that pick up your darts and apologize if necessary.
The rest of the people in the bar or pub may indeed be very distracting, loud, but this is no excuse for the players to act the same way. If you are part of the audience, try to remain calm and quiet while the darts player throws.
Remove Your Darts Only After the Score Has Been Calculated
After you have thrown your darts wait for the scorer to calculate and announce your points. Don’t remove your darts from the dartboard before that.
On TV, it all happens very fast, but keep in mind that these chalkers are professionals, not all are the same, and some may need a little more time to calculate the score properly. Be nice, and don’t rush to take your darts.
If you did not wait for the scorer to mark your score, then it is not their fault, and they are well within their right to mark 0 points.
Always wait until the score has been marked. That way, you will avoid any disputes over it.
Walk to the Dartboard Take Your Darts and Move to the Right Side
After you have thrown your darts, the score has been marked by the chalker (and ideally, you have verified the score yourself as well), approach the dartboard, take your darts with your hand, and walk to the right and away from the dartboard.
Usually, it is customary to walk away to the right-hand side and away from your opponent and stand somewhere behind them out of their vision. Be careful not to get in front of darts players that may be playing on a dartboard next to you.
Do not turn 180 degrees around and start walking towards your opponent; you will get in their line of sight and distract them—this is bad etiquette, and simply dangerous.
Do Not Delay the Game
Do not consciously or subconsciously try to delay the game more than it needs to be.
If you need a few seconds to sort out something that’s okay, generally speaking, but do not do it as a way to annoy, distract, or break the flow of your opponent.
Some darts players like to do what is known as a “phantom dart”, which means imagining throwing an invisible dart every time you approach the throwing line. This is, generally speaking, consider okay-ish as long as you do not do it with the purpose of annoying your opponent. Keep in mind that not everybody does it, and some players may find it annoying and bad etiquette. (And on a side note, the phantom throw is oftentimes made fun of especially in the PDC ranks, so keep that in mind.)
Another thing that some people may find annoying is looking down at your feet every time you approach the oche. Some players may consider it bad etiquette and a way to delay the game as they will not find it normal. The reason why some players will find that annoying is that they may be used to playing with a raised oche.
However, not all players have played that way and, as a result, will have to look at their feet to make sure they are positioned at the right spot—regardless of what kind of oche you are used to, try to be understanding.
After you have thrown your darts, hurry up and grab your darts so that your opponent does not have to wait. If you have scored a high 180, for example, it is always okay to celebrate it, but do not do it at the expense of your opponent having to wait for you.
Don’t Be Rude and Watch Your Language
Behavior during the game is a matter of common courtesy.
Even the best darts players lose games; however, this should never be an excuse to be rude, swear, and overall be disrespectful to anyone around you.
If it just so happens that an argument arises, it is better to sort it out in a civilized manner and keep things free from emotions and do not overreact.
If your opponent plays exceptionally well, do not be a sore loser and try to annoy or distract them, instead congratulate and be happy for them. This is just common courtesy and proper sportsmanship.
But saying this, I know it is not going to be possible to get into that mindset every time; after all, even the pros go into arguments, and bad words have been exchanged both on and off-camera.
If you happen to trip up, push or run into your opponent, apologize, and make it clear that it was not intentional.
If you happen to miss a dart, don’t speak to yourself in bad language. Even though it is not technically considered bad etiquette, it can be annoying and disrespectful to other players.
It is considered common courtesy to say “good darts” after a particularly good visit to the oche by your opponent. And if you will say that do it only after your opponent has thrown all three darts.
Also, do not go all ‘yeah’, ‘ooh, or ‘aah’ after each dart your throw.
If you get annoyed or angry, do not take it all out on the dartboard as you pull your darts from it or mark your score. (This is even more important if you are playing in a league on a port-a-board where there may be other dartboards on the other side of the wall.
However, just because your being nice to your opponent does not mean they will be nice to you as well. After all, this is a game, and it can get very competitive at times, do not forget that. But the is a difference between being competitive and rude. For other darts tips, make sure to check my article about the best dart tips from the pros.
Do Not Step Over the Throwing Line
What this means is basically do not cheat. (Besides stepping over the line usually does not help your aim.) Granted, usually, the throwing line should be marked by an elevated object so that going over the line is impossible, but not all places will have something like that.
There are not many rules for playing darts, as you know, but the throwing line is the most important thing that should not be meddled with.
You are well within your right to point out if your opponent gets his feet wet, or in other words, if their feet are over the throwing line.
And this brings us quite nicely to the next darts etiquette rule.
Know the Etiquette in Calling a Fault
One of the most common problems when it comes to darts is when people consciously or unconsciously step over the line.
It is your right to point that out, but do not interrupt their throw. Instead, point it out after they have thrown their darts. Let them know that you will, however, interrupt their next throw if they do it again. In the majority of cases, that will be enough. Usually, it is not good etiquette to interrupt your opponent, so do not do it the first time.
But if that behavior is not corrected the next time they do it, you may interrupt their throw. And if even this does not work, talk to the scorer and ask that whatever they score to be marked as zero.
Respect the Chalker
Always, always, always respect the scorer.
Even if they write down something on the wrong side of the scoreboard, if they are a little slow with the calculations, or even if they make a mistake, do not be disrespectful and do not look down on them and never throw in some passive-aggressive comments.
They are doing you a favor, if anything, and too many times darts players overlook how difficult and stressful a task is to keep score. In fact, many darts players will feel super stressed when it is their turn to be a scorer in certain leagues.
Some teams will appoint their new players to scorekeeping simply because it is a good way to practice. Understand that they are under the same, if not more, pressure than you are, so be supportive.
Know What You Can Ask the Scorekeeper
You can ask at anytime the scorekeeper the amount you have scored and how many points you need to finish the game.
However, you are not allowed to ask the scorekeeper how to shoot and double out. Do not expect the scorekeeper to talk to you or to warn you if you have made a mistake. It is your responsibility as a player to keep track of what you have scored. If in doubt, ask the scorekeeper. (However, make sure to be polite and respectful.)
Keep the Small Talk to a Minimum
In casual games with your buddies, this may not be necessary; after all, you are there to have fun. But if you are playing in a league or with someone who you don’t know, don’t feel awkward if you do not talk to each other.
That is quite normal, and there is no need for small talk. In fact, some players may even find it both distracting and annoying and may just ignore you if you tried to talk to them.
Also, while you are playing with another player, do not hold conversations with people from the audience or around you, as this can be very annoying and considered disrespectful. The same applies to drinking or eating with other people while you are playing darts with your opponent.
When Scoring Keep It Professional
If you will be chalking or scorekeeping for other players, keep things professional. Do not talk, give advice, eat, drink, or smoke while you are at the scoreboard.
As a general rule, if you need a calculator to keep the score, then do not do it. The rule for shaking hands applies to darts players and scorekeepers as well.
Stand still and do not make any unnecessary and distracting movements. Do not talk to the players unless they ask you about their score. It is not your job to warn or give advice to the player throwing as they are responsible for their decisions. If they, however, ask you what they have scored, then you can let them know.
You should be facing the dartboard at an angle of 45 degrees while staying at an arm’s length from the scoreboard.
Make sure you are in a comfortable position and being able to see the dartboard as you are usually not allowed to lean or move your head too much in order to see where the darts have landed.
Do not rush. Wait for all three darts to land before announcing the score. Make sure to double-check the score to avoid any mistakes before announcing it. Make sure to say it loud and clear enough so that the players can hear it.
The same applies to marking the score, make sure to write everything in a manner that is easy to read and make sure to strikethrough the previous score so that the player can easily identify their current score.
Keep in mind that darts need to land and remain on the dartboard for the score to be counted. If a dart falls, it is counted as zero points. Once the darts have been pulled from the dartboard, the score is final and cannot be disputed.
If No Scorekeeper Is Available Agree With Your Opponent on How You Will Keep Your Scores
Sometimes there will be no scorekeeper available, so each player will have to keep their own score.
This is perfectly okay, but make sure to agree with your opponent on what procedures you will follow.
The best way is to do the following:
- Each player throws their darts.
- Then they record their score
- Then they subtract their score from the points left.
- Only then can each player go ahead and remove their darts from the dartboard.
This procedure is the safest one and ensured fair play as each player can see and verify the score of their opponent.
And when you finish your game, always erase the scoreboard.
Pay Attention to When It Is Your Turn
Pay attention to whose turn is next. This is important and good darts etiquette because it allows the game to move at a good pace.
Knowing when it is your turn at the oche will allow for faster and smoother games—the coordination between you, your teammates, if there are any, and your opponent will also be better.
Not paying attention is considered bad etiquette and a sign of disrespect to both the game you are currently playing and your opponent.
This also goes for when it comes to doubling out (especially if you are playing in a team); make sure to have your potential scoring strategy mapped out in your head.
Check the Local Rules and Conventions of Play
If you are visiting a new establishment where you have never played before, it is a good rule of thumb to ask around and check on the local conventions and rules of play.
Not all places will follow the same practices and conventions of play. In certain places, you may be able to freely go to any dartboard and start playing while in other places, you may need to wait your turn.
Sometimes it may be worth asking around what is the proper way to join a game or find an opponent and spectate a few games or even score for other players in order to get a good grasp of the local community and conventions of play.
This also applies if you will be keeping score. Different leagues will have different rules. In certain leagues, you may be allowed to say the score left, while in other places, you may not be allowed to say anything whatsoever.
Do Not Shy Away From Scoring for Others
One of the hardest things sometimes is to find a scorekeeper. I have always thought this to be a very thankless job.
And a good scorekeeper is priceless as they make the game go smoothly and seamlessly without any awkward pauses, corrections, or distractions. A good scorekeeper is one that is not notices—probably the reason why the importance of the scorekeeper is so often overlooked.
There will always be somebody ready to play a game of darts with you, but when it comes to scorekeeping or chalking, the volunteers are few and far between.
This is why I always try to invite players to volunteer and chalk of others. However, there is a little caveat here, do it only after you are relatively confident in your abilities.
You cannot expect others to be willing to chalk for you if you turn your back on them whenever they need a scorekeeper themselves.
Besides, and it seems a lot of people underestimate it, there is great value in scorekeeping. Even some of the pro darts players have admitted that they need to improve their calculating skills. It is not unheard of even the best darts players to bust due to poor calculations.
Keeping track of the score and doing all these calculations in your mind as quickly as possible will keep you a few steps ahead of your opponents. And what better way to practice than being a scorekeeper.
Many darts players often wonder how the pros and the judges calculate the score so fast the answer is simple years of practice. This is the easiest way to get better at maths at darts. Do not miss that opportunity.
And when the match is over, remember to erase the scoreboard.
Understand the Environment
The only time you will be playing darts in ideal conditions—read in a quiet and relaxing environment—is probably when you are practicing alone in your home.
If you are easily distractable or prone to get stressed, you should spend more time working on controlling these emotions. Learning how to control and manage anxiety, anger, and how to relax when playing darts will be most helpful.
Make sure you learn how to deal with distractions and noise.
Learn the Darts Talk and the Rules of the Different Games
As it is with anything in life, it is always good to understand the local language. Of course, although, this applies to people living in foreign countries, it also applies to new darts players.
If you have never played darts, you may hear many strange words like oche, legs, spiders, low tons, happy meals, robin hoods, bread an breakfast, and so much more.
Make sure you go through the most commonly used darts phrases, terms, and sayings. Of course, there will be some regional differences, and so on, but if you want things to go a lot more smoothly, you should have a basic understanding of the most commonly used terminology.
The same thing also applies to completely new darts players. The good thing is that darts games—even the complicated ones—are very easy to learn and understand.
Darts community is usually very friendly and welcoming, so even if you are a completely new player, they will not shun you away. However, if you want to start playing darts, make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the most commonly played darts games.
Be Open to and Ask for Advice
During casual games, if you are playing against a more experienced player, do not be afraid to ask for advice. And if you do, listen to what they are saying. It is not always about hitting only those treble 20s, so do not be too surprised if they suggest you aim for a different section on the dartboard.
Have extra replacement tips, flights, shafts, barrels, etc. During a game of darts, anything can, and most likely will, break.
Make sure you are prepared and have everything you need so that you can get back into the game as fast as possible. You don’t want to delay the game and make your opponent wait for you to figure out how to get a new set of darts.
Know When to Score in Cricket
When it comes to the lower divisions in Cricket, it is sometimes looked down upon players that will start scoring right away. It is not technically against the rules, but in the lower divisions, this can be considered bad etiquette and disrespectful.
Alternate Your Throws If Needed
You could run into some issues if you are playing in a place where there are multiple dartboards side by side.
If you and the other darts players around you are all throwing from the middle of the throwing line, usually there is no need to worry about when you throw your darts.
But if you are throwing, for example, to the right of the center and the opponent to your right throws to the left of his center, then you will end up being very close to each other, which could be distracting and annoying. In this case, it may be worth taking a few seconds to make sure you alternate your throws.
Always Give Your 100%
Everyone has good and bad days. However, make sure to give your 100% every time you play darts with an opponent.
Not playing seriously can be viewed as disrespectful and not good sportsmanship.
Even if you are losing by several legs, do not give up. Turn arounds can always happen. There are cases where players have been losing by 5, 6, or 7 legs only to go on and win the match simply because they did not give up.
Regardless of what happens, win or lose, this is a chance to put in some good and high-quality practice so it should not be brushed off.