A revolution is going on in the world of televised live sport right now and it might not be one on your radar. As outlined in the recent documentary House of Flying Arrows, the game that started in the back room of dingy old-time British pubs, darts, has firmly found its way into the mainstream.
Now, bookmakers and broadcasters alike are realising that this sport is among their most popular products, with Sky Sports registering close to a million viewers for last year’s World Championship final – at a time of year when Premier League football is on TV pretty much back-to-back.
It is an obscure thing, darts. The game, which has been a staple of British TV for decades, was traditionally played by beer-swilling pub patrons, all with the worst diets and smoking habits, wrapped up in the worst shirt designs imaginable. Then, in 1994, the British Darts Organisation splintered and in its place emerged the Professional Darts Corporation, taking the game’s premier talents with it and leaving the BDO lagging behind.
With the PDC now running the show, darts was re-launched as a shiny new version of the same pub game. The silly and garish shirt designs remained true to type, and for the most part, so did the body shapes within; darts stubbornly clung to its much-treasured stereotypes. But therein lies the genius.
Darts got its glossy Sky Sports makeover without sacrificing the very thing that made it quintessentially darts. While the game becomes increasingly fashionable, its stars remain anything but. It doesn’t need gimmicks to thrive, just the purest and rawest of skills complete with calmness under pressure.
How does professional darts work?
It’s actually pretty simple. Starting at 501, players take turns to throw three darts at a time, aiming to be the first to reduce their score to zero. Double and treble zones are marked out on the board by red rings running around the numbered board divisions.
Doubles are the outer red, trebles the inner. The highest possible score in one set of three darts is 180 (three treble 20s), hopefully on the way to the game’s holy grail: a nine-dart finish.
Tournament formats can vary between “best of” events, where players win the best of a set amount of legs or, as is the case with the PDC World Championship which is taking place right now in London, in a “set” format, whereby players throw to win sets instead.
Is watching darts actually exciting?
At its best, it’s thrilling. The crowd, more important here than in almost any other sport, helps to make an intoxicating and jovial atmosphere and the beers are always flowing. In fact, stats show that each night during the World Championships, 25,000 pints of beer are sold. Up at the oche, games can switch in a heartbeat and, similar to poker, players can tilt and struggle to regain their composure. Something the fans always enjoy is the overflow of emotions and watching players blow up from time to time, further proving that, in darts, mentality is as important as technique.
What are the biggest darts events?
The game pretty much runs events each week of the year but really comes into its own over the winter when most Brits are curled up indoors avoiding the weather. More and more international dates are being added to the calendar each season, bringing the game to Asia, Australia and even to the States for the US Darts Finals in Las Vegas next July.
From mid-December until early in the new year, the Darts World Championships, easily the biggest three weeks of the Darts season, takes place at North London’s Alexandra Palace, affectionately referred to as Ally Pally. Shortly afterwards, at the end of January, the Darts Masters and, a further month later, the hugely popular Darts Premier League begin. Here, the game’s eight top players tour the country weekly before meeting in the play-offs in London that May.
Darts Betting Tips
The game is relatively low risk for bettors owing to the fact that outsiders almost never win the big events. That isn’t to say that there is no value from darts betting tips – in fact, far from it. At any given time, there is usually a bank of around eight or nine players capable of taking down the bigger events; however, at the moment, you have to contend with a Dutchman that has literally won about half the tournaments he’s played in this year.
Michael Van Gerwen, also known as Mighty Mike or simply MVG, is the outstanding player of the last half decade, taking the torch from the game’s all-time greatest, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. Despite this, Van Gerwen has only ever stuck gold at the Ally Pally once further proving darts’ ability to surprise. Plus, online bookmakers have found many ways to keep their sportsbooks fresh and interesting, such as offering specialised and handicapped betting if you’re not brave enough to bet against the Dutch Darts Maestro.