Popular Dart Games for All Skill Levels
There are hundreds of great dart games, but certain games have stood the test of time.
These are the traditional dart games, such as Cricket, 301 and 501, and Shanghai, played in dive bars and in households across the world for generations.
In this post we’ll introduce you to 7 fun and popular dart games you should learn how to play.
You’ll learn how to play each game, with a quick overview of the established rules, strategies and popular game variations.
Let’s get started!
7 Great Dart Games: Table of Contents
For a full list of dart games with clear instructions, official rules, tips on technique and more, check out the American Darts Association Book of Darts.
Want a full list of the best bar games? Check out: 40 bar games for your next night out.
Cricket is our first pick for one of the best dart games, and it’s usually the first game that comes to mind in any conversation about darts.
It’s one of the most popular dart games in America. And whether you’re at a bar or throwing darts in your buddy’s basement, Cricket is a great entry-point to the game of darts.
Cricket is fun, easy to learn and can be enjoyed by players from beginning to expert.
Below is a brief overview of the game of cricket. To learn more, check out our simple guide to learn more about how to play Cricket darts.
Cricket is usually played with two players or teams of two. It can also be played with 3 players.
The numbers in play are 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and Bulls.
How to Play Cricket
The objective of Cricket is pretty simple: close out the numbers in play while being even or ahead in total points.
Start out by picking teams (if doubles) and choosing who shoots first.
You close a number by hitting the number three times. This is done by hitting single, double (outer ring) or triple (inner ring) shots. If you have closed a number that is still open for your opponent, you can start scoring points on that number.
For instance, say you closed 16 and your opponent hasn’t yet. Now if you hit a double 16, you would score 32 points. Keep a running total of your points in the left column next to the numbers column on the scoreboard.
The cricket numbers can be targeted and closed in any order. Yet many players begin at the top with 20 and try to work their way down to the bullseye. However, it is not required to play this way unless you are specifically playing Cricket in order.
Aim for the triple
One common, and obvious, strategy is to always aim for the triple ring of your number.
This is because a triple will close out a number in a single shot. And it can quickly add up the points if your opponent hasn’t closed that number yet.
Of course, you won’t always hit the triple ring. But aiming for the triple keeps you focused on the middle of the number, increasing your odds of at least marking a single.
Throw first and gain points
Another advantage in Cricket is throwing first. This is why getting closest to the bullseye at the start of the game, if you choose that method, is important.
If you throw first, you can close out a number and start adding points before your opponent has even started. And when they finally take their first turn, they will be starting the game by playing catch-up.
Don’t forget the bullseye
Another strategy is to take care of the bullseye sooner than later. Remember, you can’t win unless you hit three corks.
For many players, closing out the bulls is the most challenging part of the game.
Even if you’re ahead on numbers and points, leaving the cork open gives your opponent a chance to catch up.
There are some popular Cricket variations that can make the game a little easier, speed things up, make it harder for skilled players, or just change things up if you’ve been playing the standard format for a while.
Play without points
If playing without points, each player just closes out the numbers without worrying about scoring points. Pretty simple. This is a good way to go there are people waiting to play, or if you’re just keeping things light among friends. It works well in a more relaxed bar atmosphere too.
Play in sequence
You can make it more challenging by only counting numbers thrown in sequence, starting at the 20 and counting down to bullseye.
Add more numbers
If you want to extend the game, you can just add to the numbers in play. For example, after the 15, add the numbers 14 through 11 before the bulls.
Play “Cutthroat” Cricket
Also known as 3-way Cricket, this is just the standard game with three players instead of two.
Cutthroat makes scoring a little more tactical, as two players can team up and pile on the points to eliminate the other player.
For a very concise overview of how to play Cricket, check out the NDA official rules of Cricket.
2) The 01 Games (301 and 501)
If you play in a dart league, tournament or watch darts at the professional level, you are probably familiar with the two international standards: 301 and 501.
These are two very popular dart games among competitive dart throwers, and the rules of the 01 games are actually very simple.
But the actual mechanics and “out” strategies can be complex.
How Many Players
The games of 301 and 501 are usually played with two players (1 v 1) or teams of two.
All the numbers are in play. But the most common numbers to aim for are 20 and 19, as these are high percentage points that will score the most points.
The inner bullseye (aka “double bulls”) is worth 50 points. The outer bullesye (aka “single bulls”) is worth 25 points.
How to Play 301 and 501
Each player or team begins with a score of 301 or 501. The goal of each game is to get to a score of “0” by subtracting each three-dart score from your total points.
The game of 301 begins by “doubling” in. This means that you cannot begin subtracting points from 301 until you hit a double of any number on the dart board.
Either player can start subtracting points as soon as he hits a double. This means your opponent can get a head start if you’re struggling to double in. That’s why its important to practice your doubling in so you can get this part over with as soon as possible in a real game of 301.
The game of 501 usually starts “straight in”. This means that hitting a single or more of any number on the board will start the game. Once you get on the board, you continue your turn and subtract the points from the 501 total.
In either 301 or 501, a player must “double out” to win.
Doubling out means that you must hit a double to reach the exact score of “0”.
For example, if you have 28 left, you need to hit a double 14 to win.
If you hit less than that number, play begins from that remaining total.
So, if you had 28 left but hit a single 14, you would have 14 remaining. Now you would hit a double 7 to win.
You can see how this game gets pretty interesting. And yes, there is a lot of dart math involved. But the more you play, the easier it gets to keep score.
301 and 501 Strategies
Aim for numbers of the side of the board when doubling in
If you aim for the numbers on side of the board (i.e. 15), you increase your odds of at least hitting a random double on the outer ring above or below the target.
And that’s all you need to get ahead of your opponent and start subtracting points.
Aim for high percentage points
Most players will focus on the 20 and 19 because they are high percentage shots that can maximize points for a single turn.
Side Note: The highest possible points in a single turn is a “Ton 80”, or 3 triple 20’s, for a total of 180 points.
As we mentioned, players can hit as many points as possible with each three-dart turn to quickly subtract from the 301 or 501 totals.
But “out” strategies, and the various combinations, are more complicated.
A basic strategy is to aim for even numbers to double out.
Here, if you miss the double but hit a single, the number can be halved. But if you land on an odd number, you’ll need to get a little more creative.
Most seasoned 01 players have an understanding of some of the well-known out combinations.
For example, the highest score to go out on is 170 (Ton 70). An out of 170 would require triple 20, triple 20, and double bulls (60, 60, 50).
But there are a lot of possible combinations.
Just take a look at the Out Chart we created. It shows 140 possible ways to double out!
Learn More: Official NDA rules for 301/501 darts
Here’s a basic demontration on how to play and keep score in 301 and 501:
3) Around the World
Just like it sounds, the goal in Around the World is to work your way around the dartboard in sequence.
It’s one of the most popular dart games because of its simplicity. Plus it’s a lot of fun to play with a group.
Around the World is perfect for any number of players. It’s also a great way to practice, especially when warming up for an 01 game.
Around the World is fun with any number of players. The more players in your group the merrier.
You will use all the numbers on the board, 1 – 20. Usually the bullseye is not included.
But, as we’ll explain, the bullseye can be added to make things more interesting.
How to Play Around the World
Around the World is a very simple game. You start with number 1 and work your way around the board in sequence, all the way to 20.
Move from one number to the next, erasing and marking numbers in your column as you go.
In basic Around the World, doubles and triples do not count for more points.
Once a number is hit, you just move to the next in sequence.
There are a few ways to make the basic dart game of Around the World a little more interesting:
Add the Bullseye
Typically the game is over once you reach 20. But skilled players often add the bullseye at the end. So your journey is not complete until you hit a cork.
You can also add the bullseye at the beginning, so each player must hit a cork before they can start their journey around the board.
Add Doubles and Triples
If you’re really an expert, try using only doubles or triples. For instance, make it so you must hit a double of each number to move on to the next.
Or, try speeding it up by allowing players to skip numbers if they hit a double or triple.
As an example, if you hit a double 3, you skip the 4 and advance to 5. If you hit a triple 3, you would advance to 6.
Fourth on our list of fun and popular dart games for most skill levels, the game of Legs is all about hitting the highest possible number of points for each turn.
It’s similar to the 01 games without the doubling in and out strategies.
Any number of players can play. But this game is more fun when several players are involved.
All numbers on the board are in play. But just like in 301 and 501 games, the most commonly targeted numbers are 20 and 19.
How to Play Legs
Each player begins with 3 legs. Mark each “leg” with a stripe next the players’ initials.
Shoot your darts and note the score. The next player must either match or exceed your score. If that player does not match or exceed your score, he loses a leg.
Every player must match or exceed the score of the player immediately before them.
So, if player ONE shoots a 55, player TWO must score at least 55.
If player 2 scores a 45, he loses a leg. Now player THREE must meet or exceed 45. And so on.
Make sure you mix up the order of players after each game, too.
Killer is a fun dart game to play with three or more people. This game requires hitting doubles only and can involve some careful strategy.
Killer is best to play with at least three people.
Only selected numbers are in play. Read on for an explanation.
How to Play Killer
At the start of the game, each player chooses a random number by shooting at the board with their non-shooting hand.
Once you have a number, you then try to hit a double of that number. This makes you a “killer”.
When you become a killer, you can try to “kill” your opponents by striking doubles of their numbers.
Each player gets three lives. Each double is worth one life.
To set up the board, mark each player’s initials in a column. Note each player’s number to the left of their initials. Then mark three lives with lines to the right of each player’s initials.
When a player is killed, erase one line.
The player with any lives (lines) remaining wins the game.
For starters, do not hit your own double after you become a killer.
If you do, you will have “killed yourself” and must erase one of your lines.
You can also team up on other players by targeting their doubles and quickly “killing them off” the board.
Halve-It is a fun dart game for more advanced players. But that doesn’t mean novice dart throwers can’t give it a try.
The game of Halve-It is more advanced because the numbers in player are challenging (i.e. you must hit a double-bulls in the last round).
Plus, the penalty for missing a target number is that your score is cut in half.
Any number of players can play Halve-It.
As mentioned, it’s an advanced dart game, so usually only a few players are experienced enough to choose this game over some of the other less challenging games.
Numbers in Play
Halve-It is played by aiming at numbers 20, 16, D7, 14, T10, 17 and Double Bulls.
These numbers must be played in order and each player gets a 3-dart turn.
How to Play Halve-It
As you can see, the numbers in play are a little different than other dart games like Cricket.
Starting with the 20, each player shoots his or her 3-dart turn aiming at that number. You tally your score after each turn. If you miss the number, your score gets halved.
Let’s look how this would look in a real game of Halve-It.
Let’s say you are playing with three players.
First, set up the score sheet as a grid. The players’ initials should go along a row at the top. The numbers (20, 16, D7, 14, T10 and DB) will go in a column on the left side of the grid.
You will mark your score in a column corresponding to your initial and the number in play after each round.
For round one, each player shoots 3 darts at the 20. So, let’s say you hit a double 20 and single 20. Your total score for that round would be 60.
After the other two players take their shots at the 20, you start the next round by shooting at the 16.
If you miss the 16 with all three darts, your score of 60 would be halved to 30. If you hit one 16 (for instance) your score would be 76.
The game carries on so each player gets a turn at each number and the player with the highest points total at the end of the game is the winner.
You can see how this dart game gets hard when you need to hit a double 7, triple 10 or double bulls.
The final entry on our list of popular and fun dart games is Shanghai. This is the perfect game for a large group of players.
It’s named after the dart term Shanghai: when a player hits a single, double and triple of the same number in a single turn.
You’ll see why this is the name of the game in a minute.
Any number of players can play this game. But Shanghai is best when there are several players involved.
The numbers in play are 1 through 7, corresponding to the inning numbers.
How to Play Shanghai
Yes, Shanghai is based on innings (a shorted version of baseball). There are 7 innings played in sequence. Each player takes 3-dart turns at numbers 1 through 7.
The goal is to score as many points as possible in each inning. The points correspond to the inning number in play.
For example, if it’s the 2nd inning, you can only shoot at the 2. A single would be worth 2 points. A double would be worth 4 points and so on.
Any dart thrown outside of the inning number in play does not count.
You win this dart game by either scoring the most points after 7 innings, or scoring a “Shanghai” in any single inning.
Now you see why the game is called Shanghai!
Remember, this means hitting a single, double and triple in a single turn. It’s pretty rare, but even if you scored a “Shanghai” in the first inning, it would be game over. You win.
Keep track of the scores by writing each player’s initials along a row at the top of a scoring sheet. Write the inning numbers in a column to the left. You can then create a grid and note each player’s score for each inning as you go.
Shanghai allows for some pretty drastic comebacks, as the possible scores can increase significantly in later innings.
Here’s a good demonstration of how to play and practice with Shanghai:
Shanghai Game Variations
If you miss a number, you’re out
At the start of the game, all players can agree on a few numbers that must be hit in a single turn. If you miss that number, you’re out.
For example, you can decide that a player will get an out if they miss the 3 in the third inning, 5 in the fifth, or 7 in the seventh. Get three outs and you’re eliminated.
Or, you can just play Baseball!
Baseball is a very popular darts game in its own right.
Instead of the 7 innings with corresponding points in Shanghai, you just play the traditional 9 inning baseball format.
As in Shanghai, only darts hitting the inning number in play count.
But, unlike Shanghai, in Baseball each dart only counts as a single, double or triple.
At the end of nine innings, the player with the most runs wins. If there is a tie at the end of 9 innings, you can play extra innings until someone wins.
We’ll have plenty more ideas for some of the best dart games to share in the near future.
But the 7 games mentioned in this article are tried-and-true popular dart games that will always be some of our favorites.
If you’re looking for a place to start, or if you just need a break from Cricket, try these out.
Or if you’re looking playing solo and looking for a single player dart game, check out these ideas.
Have any suggestions on some other great dart games? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.