This is an in-depth guide to the best dart games to play with your friends.
We explain the basic rules and instructions for popular games like Cricket and 301/501, and lesser known options like Shanghai, Halve-it, Golf and more. Also included is a list of 13 rules that every player should follow no matter what game you’re playing.
To make it easier to navigate, you can use the following table of contents and click on a link to jump down to a specific game.
Best Dart Games (Table of Contents)
The first item on our dart games list is an obvious choice: Cricket. This is the most popular recreational dart game around.
Cricket can be played 1 v 1 or with teams of two. If you have three or four individual players, that works too. Although it’s more fun with partners.
Often referred to American Cricket, the objective of Cricket is to be the first player or team to close all the numbers in play while being even or ahead in points.
The numbers in play are 15,16,17,18,19, 20 and the Bull.
You must score three of each number to close the number. You can do this by scoring three singles, a double and single, or landing a triple.
You don’t have to close numbers in order, unless that’s a rule you stipulate before the game. If you close a number that is still open for your opponent, you can start scoring points on that number.
Maintaining a lead in points is key to winning the game of Cricket.
For example, if on your first throw you land four 20’s before your opponent has even thrown a dart, you close out the 20 and add 20 points to your column.
However, if you’re just starting out with darts, you can play Cricket without points. This is the recommended way to play this dart game as a beginner.
Read: our full guide on how to play Cricket, including cricket rules, scoring, game variations, FAQs and winning strategies, to learn more about his fantastic bar darts game
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. The rules of the 01 games are actually very simple.
But while the game is simple in concept, the actual mechanics and “out” strategies require a lot of skill.
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 in these dart games.
The most common numbers by far to aim for are 20 and 19, as these are high percentage shots that will score the most points and get you out sooner.
The inner bull’s eye (aka “double bulls”) is worth 50 points. The outer bull’s eye (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.
Once a player scores a double, he or she can start subtracting points by hitting singles, doubles, or triples of any number on the board.
That’s why its important to practice aiming for the outer double ring so you can get this part over with quickly 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.
If you miss the scoring section completely, the next player is up.
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 subtract to the exact score of “0”.
For example, if you have 28 left, you need to hit a double 14 to go out. If you hit less than that number, play begins from the remaining total.
So if you had 28 left but hit a single 14, you would have 14 remaining. Now you would need to 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 Tips and Strategies
Aim for numbers on the side of the board when doubling in
If you aim for the numbers on side of the board (i.e. the “15”), you increase your odds of still 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.
For example, 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 know and practice many of the well-known out combinations.
Here’s an example. We know the highest score to go out on is 170 (Ton 70). And an out of 170 would require triple 20, triple 20, and double bulls (60, 60, 50). So that’s what a pro would aim for.
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! Knowing and practicing several out combos will allow you to form a fluid strategy while playing.
Beyond 301 and 501
While 301 and 501 are the most popular 01 dart games, you can play other versions as well. For example, other fun 01 games include 701, 901, 1101 and 1501.
Like 301 and 501, you will need to either double or single in, and then work your way down from starting total to zero, with a double out at the end.
A great way to try all these different 01 games, among many others, is to play on an electronic dartboard.
A high-quality electronic dartboard will come programmed with all the 01 variations and make scoring and tracking much easier.
3. Around the World
Just like it sounds, the goal in Around the World is to work your way around the dartboard in numerical 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 darts is perfect for any number of players.
Playing around the world is also a great way to practice, especially when warming up for an 01 game, as you are forced to aim at different parts of the board than the standard numbers.
Around the World darts 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 bull’s eye is not included. But, as we’ll explain, the bull’s eye can be added to make things more interesting.
How to Play Around the World Darts
Around the World darts is a very simple game. You start with number 1 and work your way around the board in numerical sequence, all the way to the 20.
Move from one number to the next, erasing and marking numbers in your column as you go.
In basic Around the World darts, doubles and triples do not count for more points.
Once any part of a numbered segment 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 Bull’s Eye
Typically the game is over once you reach 20. But skilled players often add the bull’s eye at the end. So your journey is not complete until you hit a cork.
Or, you can also add the bull’s eye 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 as legal shots. 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. This is a really fun way to play and level up your skills on the dartboard.
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 dart games without the doubling in and out requirements.
Any number of players can play. But this game is definitely more fun when several players are involved.
All numbers on the board are in play. But, as in games of 301 and 501, the most commonly targeted numbers are 20 and 19 to gain points quickly.
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.
Playing challenging darts games like Legs requires solid darts mechanics. One of the most important aspects of a good darts throw is the stance. Check out this post to learn more about how to improve your darts stance.
Killer is a fun darts game to play with three or more people. This game requires hitting doubles only and involves some careful strategy.
Killer is best to play with at least three people.
Only the 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.
This makes the game more interesting and forces you to play a little out of your comfort zone.
Once you have a number, you then try to hit a double of that number.
Hitting a double of your number 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 dartboard, mark each player’s initials in a single 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 remaining (lines on the board) 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.
And if you’re really an assassin, you can hit three of your opponent’s doubles in one turn to quickly erase them from the board.
Aiming at the double ring only in Killer increases the number of bounce outs.
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 play are challenging (i.e. you must hit a double-bulls in the last round – see below for some variations to make it a little easier).
Plus, the penalty for missing a target number is that your score is cut in half (hence the name of the game).
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 and more popular dart games on this list.
Numbers in Play
Halve-It is played by aiming at numbers 20, 16, Double 7, 14, Triple 10, 17 and Double Bull. 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 total your score after each turn and add to your running points balance.
If you miss the target number, your points balance 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 initials and the number in play after each round.
For Round One, each player shoots 3 darts at the 20.
Let’s say you hit a double 20 and single 20. Your total score for that round would be 60. Not bad!
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. Yet if you hit at least one 16 your score would increase 76.
The game carries on so each player gets a 3-dart 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.
If a player missed on the first turn (aiming for the 20) their score would be ‘0’.
If your points balance is an odd number and you miss a number, you halve the number by rounding up.
Other Ways to Play Halve-It
Play Halve-It with Cricket Numbers
Instead of the tricky target numbers in standard halve-it (i.e. Double 7 and Triple 10) try playing with the Cricket numbers to make the game a little less challenging.
The numbers in play would be 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and Bull (optional).
This is a great way to great practice for games of Cricket and make it a little easier for novice and intermediate dart players to join in.
Play Halve-It in Sequence
This would be simply taking numbers 1 – 10, or a different range of numbers, and playing halve-it by shooting at those numbers in sequence.
The basic rules of halve-it still apply. It just changes the game up a little and lets you work on different numbers on the board.
Shanghai 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
Shanghai is based on innings (a shorter version of baseball).
There are 7 innings played in sequence, and 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; double would be worth 4 points; and a triple worth 6 points. 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 that 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.
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.
8. Baseball Darts
Baseball is similar to Shanghai, but a very popular darts game in its own right.
Any number of players
How to Play Baseball:
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. Just like real baseball.
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.
This is a very simple darts game that works well with a larger group of players, where each player is on their own.
Numbers in Play:
All numbers on the dartboard are in play
How to Play Gotcha Darts:
For this game, you simply agree on a number of points to win the game.
This could be any number, but if you want a fast game you can pick a number like 200 for example. Mark everyone’s initials in a column down the scoreboard. After each three dart turn, mark the current total points next to the player’s initials.
To win, you must be the first player to score the exact number of specified points. You can also “kill” your opponents by hitting their current points total in a single turn and resetting their score to “0”.
If you go over the exact amount required to win, your score resets to the previous total. For example, if at the start of your turn you have a 165 and then shoot a 210, you would then bust and go back to 165 for your next turn.
10. Golf Darts
Last but not least, playing golf darts is a fun darts game for all that also happens to be an excellent way to practice your 301/501 skills. This is because, to win at golf, you need to master the double ring. We’ll explain below.
Any number can play, just be mindful of having enough room on the scoreboard.
Numbers in Play
You can play numbers 1 through 9 or 1 through 18 (corresponding to the number of holes in a round of golf)
How to Play Golf Darts
First, decide on the number of holes you’re going to play and who will throw first. This can be done with a simple closest to the bulls challenge, and then order players based on the results.
Mark each player’s initials across the top of the board and then the numbers down the left side (1 – 9 or 1 – 18).
The goal is to score the lowest number possible per turn. Here’s how to the scoring works:
- Doubles are the lowest, worth 1 point
- Triples are worth 2 points
- Singles on the narrow part of the wedge (between the triple ring and the bull) are worth 3 points
- Singles in the fat part of the wedge (between the triple ring and the double ring) are worth 4 points
- If you miss the number entirely, you get 5 points
Start on the first hole (number 1). Each player gets up to three throws per turn, but only their last throw counts. This means that if you land a double on your first throw, you can (and should) decide to end your turn on that dart and mark a score of “1”. If you miss the mark, you should try again.
Mark each player’s score per hole and tally the points at the end of 9 or 18 holes. Player with the lowest score wins.
13 Dart Rules for Every Game
The dart games mentioned above all have different objectives, scoring methods, numbers in play and unique rules to keep in mind.
But there are certain dart rules that apply to all dart games.
Rule #1 – Three Darts Per Turn
Every player gets three darts per turn.
Rule #2 – Remove Your Own Darts
Each player should always remove his or her darts from the board after each turn. But only remove your darts after determining points (See Rule 6).
Rule #3 – Fallen Darts Are Out of Play
If a dart bounces or falls off the board, it is out of play. It cannot be thrown again. Same goes for a dart that sticks into another dart.
Note: If you are playing on an electronic dartboard, the dart may still register on the board even if it falls or bounces off. This is because bounce outs are much more common with soft tipped darts.
Rule #4 – Dropped Darts Can be Thrown Again
If you accidentally drop a dart and it wasn’t a “misthrow”, you can still pick it up and throw it again.
Rule #5 – Stand on the Throwing Line
Do not stand beyond the throwing line.
A standard throwing line is 7 feet and 9.5 inches from the board. This should be clearly marked.
No part of your feet should extend beyond this line when throwing.
Rule #6 – Record Your Score Before Removing Darts
Do not remove the darts from the board until you have recorded your score for that turn.
Players often make the mistake of immediately pulling their darts from the board and then marking the scoreboard.
Rule #7 – Do Not Touch Darts Until After Your Turn
You may leave the throwing line to check your dart’s location on the board, but DO NOT touch the dart until the end of your three dart turn.
Rule #8 – Keep it Civil
Opposing players should shake hands before and after each game. Darts is an established game with a long tradition of good sportsmanship.
Basic sportsmanship should be observed even in casual bar matches.
Related: Read our full overview of how to play darts
Rule #9 – Decide Who Shoots First.
Always determine who goes first before starting your match.
The classic way to do this is to have each player, or one player from each team, throw one dart at the bullseye. The player closest to the cork goes first. He or she can choose the game to be played.
If closest to the bulls is too close to call, remove the darts and throw again.
Making this determination is important, as going first is a big advantage in most dart games.
Rule #10 – Decide Player Shooting Order
Determine the player order in games with 3 or more players. This can be decided at random, alphabetically, or by splashing.
Splashing is when a player takes two darts and throws them at the same time.
The darts are thrown without aiming (to produce a random result) but must hit the scoring zone. If both darts do not at least hit the scoring zone, the player should throw again.
Sometimes players do this with their opposite throwing arm. Total the scores of the two darts from each player and determine the player order from highest to lowest.
Rule #11 – Do Not Distract as the Scorekeeper
If a non-player is keeping score, he or she must remain silent and not distract a player during their turn. The scorekeeper should verify each score before the darts are pulled from the board.
Rule #12 – Stay Clear of Throwing Player
There should be no one within 2 feet of the player throwing. And no one should be even close to the area between the throwing line and the dart board.
Rule #13 – Only Throw Darts Needed to Win
If you have won the game but still have remaining darts, the game is over. There is no need to throw the remaining darts.
For example, if you double out with your first dart in an 01 game, or close out bulls on your first toss while ahead on points to win Cricket, do not throw your remaining darts.
No matter what game you decide to play at the bar, the above set set of dart rules will apply.
If you need a complete reference for dart rules, please check out the Official Rules of Play from the National Darts Association.
The 10 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.
Have any suggestions on some other great dart games? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.