How to play 501 darts | Dart Rules 501(Video)

501 is the most popular and well-known darts game, and it is played all around the world. It is the game you see all the world’s top players playing in the PDC, with millions of fans watching on. It is relatively easy to understand and can be used in a variety of formats to create either short or long games that players of any skill level are able to try. It can also be played alone to practice for match situations, or to improve both scoring and doubling. The game gets its name for the starting score.

Scoring In 501 Darts

Each player starts on 501 points. They must take turns throwing three darts each at the board. Their score with the three darts is then subtracted from their score. The dartboard has 20 number segments, 1 through 20. The large open area in each segment is a single and will give the player the score of the number they hit. The triples, also known as the trebles, and the thin inner ring, and it gives the player three times the segment score. The doubles are found on the thin inner ring, and it gives the player double the segment score. There is also the bullseye area found in the middle of the board. The green section, known as the outer bullseye, counts for 25 points, whilst the small round red part is known as the inner bullseye, and it scores 50 points. The outside of the board counts for nothing, and it is also where the number ring is located.


The Rules of 501 Darts

A player can use any part of the board to use points, as long as they do not leave one or below. The player who throws first will have a slight advantage, and this can be decided if both players throw at the inner bullseye. Whoever gets closer gets to throw first, to make the advantage fairer. The players alternate throwing first each leg. Players should start aiming at the 20 segment, as the triple is the highest score on the board. If the 20 becomes blocked, most players will move down the board to the 19 segments. However, to finish off a game players must hit a double, making the finish very challenging. 

If a player hits a double to leave exactly zero then they win the leg. The leg score should be kept track of, as legs are short and commonly more than one is played at a time. If players are very good at maths, they can count the score in their heads, but most players will either write down the score on a chalkboard or a whiteboard. Some players will also use some software on a mobile or computer as it is the quickest and easiest way to keep track of the score. Most software will also keep track of a player’s stats, including their average score. It is also important to be able to count turns in your head, to know where to aim to leave certain scores, and also how not to bust.

How To Win 501 Dart

To win a game of 501, which is known as a leg, the last dart must be thrown into a double to get to exactly zero. This means that when a player is below 200 points, they should begin to think about leaving an easy double. Most players tend to favour even numbered doubles, as if the player misses inside, they leave another double. The favoured doubles on the board are often double 20, known as tops as it is top of the board, and double 16. Double 16 is also next to double 8, meaning that switching is easy. If a player leaves exactly zero by hitting a double they win the leg, but if they leave less than zero, they go ‘bust’ and receive no points for that turn. A player also goes ‘bust’ if they leave one as this cannot be finished. The inner bullseye can be used to finish, but not the outer bullseye.

Doubling In 501 Darts

501 legs can be made harder and more challenging by using the ‘double in’ rule. In this version, a player must hit a double to start the leg. Any darts thrown after their first double count towards the score, but any before count as zero. The rule makes games trickier, but can improve a player’s doubles accuracy, which will help them towards the end of the leg. Doubling in is rarely used in the professional game, and it is only used in one televised tournament, the PDC World Grand Prix. The inner bullseye can also be used to start, but not the outer bullseye. A player’s average stat would also be expected to drop when using this rule, as some of their darts could count as zero, not just at the end of the leg, but also at the start.

501 Darts Variations

Games can be played in set-play or leg-play formats. In leg-play, players compete to reach a total number of legs first. This will mean that it is best of an odd number of legs. This allows players to keep their won legs for the entire game and removes the pressure of set-play. Set-play is where players compete to win a required number of sets. A set is a ‘mini game where players compete to reach a set number of legs, commonly 3. Only a player reaches this number of legs, they win the set, and the leg score is reset to 0-0. The set-play format adds more pressure, as a player could win some legs, but lose the set. If sets are first to 3, a player could lose a set 3-2 and see their hard work go to waste. It is used in the world’s most famous darts tournament, the PDC World Darts Championship.

Nine Darters In 501 Darts

A nine darter is the perfect leg of 501. A player has to end the leg with nine darts, the minimum that can be used to reach zero. A player must hit three high numbered trebles with their first eight darts, and then hit their double with one dart. The traditional route is two 180s in a row, the maximum score with three darts, followed by a 141 checkout, hitting treble 20, treble 19 and double 12. A nine darter can also be hit using the double start rule, if either a high double is used to start, but the finish would be on the bullseye, which makes the feat harder. A nine darter is a very prestigious achievement, and less than 70 have been hit in televised tournaments.

Tips for improving 501 darts

A player should throw three identical darts to maximise their chance of improving. Tungsten darts are preferable, as they tend to be thinner, but brass or steel darts can also be used, as these tend to be cheaper. Players can throw however they want, and whatever speed they want to throw at, but they should use the same throwing method for a while, to perfect it and to ensure consistency. A dartboard surround should also be used to protect the wall around the dartboard. It will catch any darts that miss the board, as it surrounds the outside of the board. A player also needs to have a dart that consists of a barrel, stem and flight. Flights and stems may have to be regularly replaced as they become damaged often, but barrels tend to last for a long time. The dartboard that a player uses can also be rotated to maintain it and make it last for longer. The board should be turned by two segments, so that the colours of the segments remain the same. The number ring must also be turned the other way to ensure that they stay the same.

See also: How to Play Cricket (Darts)

501 Darts Rule Book

The official rules for 501 darts are laid out in the DRA (Darts Regulation Authority) Rule Book. The book states that;

  • The darts used by players must be less than 200mm in length and shouldn’t weigh more than 40 grams.
  • It also states that darts should be thrown one at a time, and in an overarm fashion.
  • In addition, any dart that falls out of the board before a player retrieves it will count for nothing.
  • The position of the dartboard is also defined. The board must be hung so that the bullseye is 1.73 meters off the floor. The oche, which the players throw from, must also be 2.37 meters away from the board. It can either be a line drawn on the floor, a sticker, or a ‘raised oche’ which makes it easier for players, as they can kick their foot against the oche to find it, rather than having to look down at the floor before they throw.
  • The board should also be brightly lit to ensure that players can see it clearly at all times.

Learn how to play the 501 dart with this video guide

If this article was too long or boring for you. don’t worry, we have got your back with a simple video guide. The video is a detailed discussion of how to score. 

Courtesy: The video was made by Ninh Ly. Ninh Ly is a popular Youtube channel that explains almost everything that related to games.