The Quirky World Of Darts – Understanding The Magic of the 3 Arrows!

By Ian John
July 10, 2024
WDF World Darts Championship

There is no doubt about it. Darts is a quirky game. Yet, it is also wonderful, exciting, enjoyable, dramatic, tragic and enigmatic.

It encapsulates everything about the human condition. Yet its legends of the game, rules and requirements make it as accessible a sport as any, for any person of any creed, nationality, size or shape.

The sport has an incredible and often volatile history. From regal beginnings, to the game of the working classes. From popularity, to disinterest and back to massive popularity once again.

So, if you’ve enjoyed the darts on TV or the darts betting coverage at bet365 Sport and want to know more about the game, read on as we bring you a complete understanding of the game. From its historic and noble beginnings right up to the modern day!

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The History of Darts

You have to go back to medieval times to uncover the roots of Darts. Back then, it was a pastime adopted by soldiers of the realm. They would throw spearheads at upturned barrels. Back then, it was seen a less of a game, more of a training regime for soldiers about to head into battle.

Soon, soldiers started using different targets, eventually moving on to tree trunks, which were cut in half, and the annual growth rings used to judge how accurate a throw was.

In 17th century France, a similar game was developed that used a cork target and a point which used feathers to allow it to fly through the air. However, the game was still a long way from the darts we know today.

If the origin point of modern darts can be traced back to one moment in time, that came in the late 1880s. Bury resident Brian Gamlin devised a way to turn darts into a game. His brainwave was to organise the board into numbered segments from 1-20. A system which remains in place to the present day.

Darts began to grow in popularity in England at the start of the 20th century. Public houses began to offer the game, but it was a controversial move, with some localities banning the game. Despite Mr Gamlin’s design, many regions had their own darts boards and rules. Both those issues changed following the end of the Second World War.

During the war, darts played a key role for soldiers, who introduced their allies from the likes of America, Australia and elsewhere to the game.

Following the war the National Darts Association of Great Britain was set up and it started to organise a standardised game at local and national coverage.

WDF World Darts Championship
Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Darts Early Years

In the formative years of darts, there was one main tournament. The News of the World Championship, which was first contested in 1927. This attracted many thousands of entrants in its prime. In 1938/39, over 280,000 people entered the tournament.

After a break enforced by the Second World War, the News of the World Championship returned but over the next 25 years or so, the game grew in popularity as a sport played mainly in pubs or working mens clubs.

With the NDA of Great Britain loathe to expand its operations, Olly Croft formed the British Darts Organisation (BDO). His aim was to bring darts to the mainstream by running tournaments shown on TV and to take over the governance of the sport at local and national level.

The BDO attracted sponsors and TV companies soon began to show darts tournaments regularly. In 1978, a landmark for darts was reached when the BDO hosted the first-ever World Darts Championship.

Leighton Rees of Wales was the first-ever World Champion, defeating John Lowe in the final, earning a £3,000 top prize.

The 1970s to mid/late 1980s were the first golden era of darts. The game drew large viewing figures on TV and attracted many sponsors, allowing for more televised tournaments each year. Events such as the World Masters, World Matchplay and several open events held in different countries.

The Formation of the PDC And The Big Split

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That happy state of affairs did not last. By the late 1980s and into the 1990s, darts began to lose its appeal. Viewing figures plummeted and sponsors withdrew their support. The number of TV tournaments dwindled away to just one and top players, concerned for their livelihood, decided to take action.

They formed the World Darts Council. They wanted more tournaments on TV, better prize money, and the appointment of a PR consultant to improve the game’s image and reignite people’s interest.

By 1993, the situation had not improved and after the 1993 World Championships, the 19 players issued a statement stating that they would only compete in 1994, if the WDC were to organise and run it. The BDO banned those 19 rebels from all BDO tournaments.

A lengthy legal battle followed, which saw the BDO forced to accept the WDC’s legitimacy, but the WDC had to change its name to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).

From 1994 onwards, darts was split, with the PDC running their own events under the guidance of Barry Hearn and with support from sponsors such as Sky Sports, while the BDO continued to run its own already-established events.

Darts in the Modern Era

The BDO/PDC split defined the modern era of darts. However, it was the PDC that was winning the battle. It attracted the top former BDO players and soon, its World Championship, greater number of tournaments, better prize money and better quality players began to attract BDO players who ‘defected’ to the PDC.

Darts players effectively could become full-time professionals with the PDC, while with the BDO, many were still effectively amateurs.

Eventually, the PDC’s dominance saw almost every top class player move to that organisation, leaving the BDO’s tournaments a very poor second. The culmination came in 2020, when the BDO was wound up after sponsors and ticket sales plummeted meaning they could not pay the 2020 winner the promised amount in winnings, offering him just 15% of the original stated amount.

In contrast, from its beginnings in 1994, the PDC has just continued to grow stronger, more popular and wealthier.

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Darts World Champions (BDO – PDC)

The full list of BDO World Champions (from 1978 to 2020)

  • 5-time winner – Eric Bristow (1980, 1981, 194, 1985, 1986)
  • 4-time winner – Raymond van Barneveld (1998, 1999, 2003, 2005)
  • 3-time winners – John Lowe  (1979, 1987, 1993), Martin Adams  (2007, 2010, 2011), Glen Durrant  (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • 2- time winners – Jocky Wilson  (1982, 1989), Phil Taylor (1990, 1992), Ted Hankey (2000, 2009), Scott Waites (2013, 2016)
  • 1 time winners – Leighton Rees (1978), Keith Deller (1983), Bob Anderson (1988), Dennis Priestley (1991), John Part (1994), Richie Burnett (1995), Steve Beaton (1996), Les Wallace (1997), John Walton (2001), Tony David (2002), Andy Fordham (2004), Jelle Klaasen (2006), Mark Webster (2008), Christian Kist (2012), Stephen Bunting (2014), Scott Mitchell (2015), Wayne Warren (2020).

The full list of BDO World Champions (from 1994 to 2024)

  • 14-time winner – Phil Taylor (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013
  • 3-time winner – Michael van Gerwen (2014, 2017, 2019)
  • 2-time winners – John Part (2003, 2008), Adrian Lewis (2011, 2012), Gary Anderson (2015, 2016), Peter Wright (2020, 2022)
  • 1-time winners – Dennis Priestley (1994), Raymond van Barneveld (2007), Rob Cross (2018), Gerwyn Price (2021), Michael Smith (2023), Luke Humphries (2024)

Darts Legends – The Top Ten Greatest Darts Players Ever

We compiled an article a while back listing the ten best Darts Players Ever. You can get more detail following the link but our list was as follows: –

  1. Phil Taylor (Eng)
  2. Eric Bristow (Eng)
  3. Michael van Gerwen (Hol)
  4. Raymond van Barneveld (Hol)
  5. John Lowe (Eng)
  6. Gary Anderson (Sco)
  7. John Part (Can)
  8. Dennis Priestley (Eng)
  9. Jocky Wilson (Sco)
  10. Adrian Lewis (Eng)
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Darts Terminology

Darts is famous for some strange terms used by commentators and within the game. Here’s a list of some of the more unusual ones and what they mean.

  • 9-Dart Finish or 9-Darter – When a player wins a game by throwing the fewest amounts of darts possible from a 501-starting score. That number is nine darts.
  • 25 – The section around the bullseye, which scores 25 points.
  • 170 – The maximum finish possible in darts. 2 x Treble 20 followed by a bullseye.
  • 180 – The maximum score possible in standard darts.
  • Barrel – The part of a dart which the players hold to throw which contains the majority of the weight of the dart and the points that stick into the board. Barrels can be different widths and weights depending on the players preference.
  • Board (or Dartboard) – The target at which players throw their darts.
  • Bounceout – When a dart is thrown at the board, but fails to stick in the board and drops to the floor.
  • Bullseye – The central section of the board is worth 50 points and counts as a double.
  • Double – The outside section of each number of the board. Games must end with a double while some games must also start with a double.
  • Drift – A term used to describe when a players throw starts to move left or right from centre.
  • Nickname – A PDC innovation which saw Darts players given memorable nicknames such as Phil “The Power” Taylor, Gary “The Flying Scotsman” Anderson, “Mighty” Michael Van Gerwen, Eric Bristow – the “Crafty Cockney” and Bob Anderson was the “Limestone Cowboy”.
  • Oche – Where players stand to throw their darts. They must stand behind the oche for their throw to be legal.
  • Outs – The different ways a player can win a game by throwing two or three darts while finishing on a double or a bullseye. The number of outs depends on the score required by the player.
  • Referee – The person with the microphone that announces the scores for each player, as well as calling the game to start and when it is completed.
  • Scorer – The person responsible for writing down the score for each player as the game is in progress.
  • Shanghai – When a player finishes a game by landing a single and treble of the same number (in any order) followed by the double of the same number. For example, on a score of 120, a possible out is a Shanghai on 20, where you hit a treble 20 (60), single 20 (20) and then finish with a double 20 (40).
  • Treble – The smallest section for each number that sees the score represents three times the number shown. So hitting the treble on a 20 gives you 60 points.
  • Walk On – An innovation from the PDC era, where players walk on stage before their game through the fans usually to one or more pieces of music that they have chosen.
  • Wire – The metal used to demarcate the different sections on a darts board.

Famous Darts Quotations

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Legendary commentator Sid Waddell, after whom the current PDC World Championship trophy was named, was famous for his darts quotations in commentary. All were delivered in a distinctive northeastern excitable drawl.

Some of his classic comments include:

“It couldn’t get more exciting now if Elvis walked in and ordered a chip butty.”

“If we’d have had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they’d have gone home”

“He’s as happy as a hound-dog who’s won a year’s supply of Bonio”

“When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer…Eric Bristow’s only 27.”

“He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.”

“Look at the man go: it’s like trying to stop a water buffalo with a pea-shooter.”

“He’s perspiring like a pudding in a pot.”

“His eyes are bulging like the belly of a hungry chaffinch.”

“His face is sagging with tension.”

“That’s the greatest comeback since Lazarus.”

“There hasn’t been this much excitement since the Romans fed Christians to the Lions.”

“That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble.”

“It’s like trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline.”

“He’s as cool as a prize marrow!”

“He’s about as predictable as a wasp on speed.”

“He’s sweating like a hippo in a power shower.”

Darts Betting

Remember, you can enjoy darts betting on the wide range of darts tournaments held across the year at bet365 Sport.

That includes futures betting, pre-match betting and of course In Play betting when the action is in progress!

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