Darts: 501 strategy

501 is the standard format used in darts tournaments. You will be playing this dart game most of the time, whether for leisure or in competition. For players that are just starting out in 501, these are some general tips that you will want to consider:

1) Focus on hitting your favourite treble

Most people will go for T20 since it gives the maximum score of 180. But if you are more comfortable hitting targets on the lower half of the board, then T19 is still a good choice.

Eventually you need to be comfortable with hitting both T20 and T19. This is because switching trebles is crucial in 501. You will need to switch if an earlier dart you have thrown is blocking the treble or is hanging loosely such that the impact of the next dart thrown could cause it to fall off the board.

2) Have a few go-to doubles

Ensure you have at least a few doubles that you can reliably hit. D16 is commonly cited because if you accidentally hit single 16, D8 is just above D16. Some other common doubles that people like are D20 and D10.

This is all down to personal preference though. I am more comfortable hitting doubles on the lower half of the board and my favourite double is D15.

Unfortunately for amateur players, D1 showdown is rather common. So it isn’t a bad idea to practise hitting D1 too.

3) Ignore the checkout table for now

You may have seen scoring charts or apps suggesting the best checkout route for a whole range of scores from 170 and bellow. But for beginner players, is it realistic to always follow these recommended routes?

Case in point: The suggested checkout for 72 is T16 and D12. But for a player who only practised hitting T20, he isn’t confident of going for other trebles. Won’t it be better to go for T20 and D6 instead?

I suggest focusing on hitting your favourite treble and all singles consistently to help you set up for a double finish.

4) Be consistent

Consistency is the most important aspect in 501 that separates the good darts players from the average ones. Top professional players all score fast and finish reliably.

The win condition in 501 is to finish on a double. This is the bane of all amateur players. But is this the only thing to worry about?

Consider this scenario: If your opponent is on a double finish and 200+ score ahead of you, he is more likely to hit the double required even if he is a worse player. This is because your opponent is so far ahead of you that he feels no pressure.

Scoring fast and keeping up or ahead of your opponent is also very important. If you don’t keep up with the tempo of your opponent, you may have lost the game even before getting a chance to checkout.

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