Darts is a pub game that is played in most countries around the world, with many players just playing for fun or at an amateur level. But it is also a professional, high-level sport that generates millions of dollars for the game’s best players and leading organizations.
In Canada, darts is a well-known and typically well-understood game, but it’s one that is relatively unheard of on a professional level. There are currently no Canadian players in the top 50 of the PDC world rankings and only 1 in the BDO world rankings. But we do have good players, there is an active amateur circuit and this is a game that is growing all of the time in Canada.
So, for every aspiring Canadian player, or anyone who wants to follow this game as a fan here in Canada, this article is for you. We will discuss the basic rules of darts, the differences between the organizations, the best place to watch, and much more.
Rules of Darts
If you ask any fan of a popular sport what the rules are most of them will begin with, “They are actually quite simple” only to sidetrack a dozen times when discussing the intricacies of them and then still be trying to explain them to you two hours later.
With darts, however, the rules really are simple, even more so than equally simplistic “pub” games like snooker.
First, the dartboard needs to be positioned at a height of 5 feet 8 inches from the ground, measured from the bullseye (the center of the board) as opposed to the bottom. A line, known as the “oche” (pronounced “Oh-Key”) is then drawn 7 feet 9.25 inches away from the board.
The game is played between two players, each supplied with three darts. The goal is for them to take turns standing at the oche and throwing darts at the board in order to score highly. They begin with a score of 501 and for every point that they score in their round of three darts, this score is reduced.
The winner is the player who finishes on a double, which is to say they get their score down to a point where a single “double” on the board can take them down to zero.
For instance, if a player scores 100, 180, 100, 101, then they have 20 left, which means they can win if they hit a double 10. If they only hit a 10, then their score becomes 10 and they need to finish with a double 5. If they hit a 5, then they have a score of 5 and need to throw a 1 before they can aim for the double 2 (there are no half scores on the board so it is not possible to finish on an odd number).
In a professional game of darts there are multiple “legs” and “sets” to prolong the game and allow each player to throw first the same amount of times, thus negating any advantages that would otherwise be had.
Each number on the dartboard (from 1 to 20) has two additional strips, one large and one small. The large strip is a double, and if players hit this then they score twice as many points as they would if they hit the number by itself. The smaller strip is a “triple” and gives them three times as many.
Contrary to popular belief, the bullseye on a dartboard is not the target with the highest score. A bullseye, which is the small red dot in the center of the board, scores 50 points, while the green ring around it scores 25. A triple 20, which is the highest score you can get with a single dart, scores a total of 60.
The highest score with 3 darts is 180, while the lowest number of darts required to win a frame is 9.
Alternative Darts Rules
Darts can be a very tricky game if you have no experience and your aim isn’t very good. If you ask a team of inexperienced players to stand behind an official length oche and throw at an official dartboard, you’re going to get a lot of shrieks, a lot of holes in the wall, and a game that just never ends.
Casual players can make it more realistic—and less dangerous—by shortening the distance from the board and by using a different scoring system to determine the win. Most casual players find it impossible to hit a double, even when they are close, so you can simply forget about this rule and make the winner the first player to go over 501, whether they do it by scoring a treble 20 on a score of 1, or by landing a double to get to 0.
You can also allow each player to throw 6 or 9 darts instead of 3, decreasing the constant back-and-forths from the board to the oche and heightening the tension a little. If you were to do this, however, then the players would either need to be very poor, or the scores would need to begin higher than 501.
PDC vs BDO: What is the Difference?
One of the things that confuse many fans about the game of darts is the fact that there are two organizations, the British Darts Organization, or “BDO”, and the Players Darts Championship, or “PDC”.
So what is the difference between the BDO and the PDC and why do these two organizations exist?
Well, the short answer is that the PDC has more money, better players and better coverage, but that both are fun, both have a World Championship and there are players who switch between the two (albeit on a season-by-season basis).
The long answer is a little more complicated.
PDC vs BDO: The Split
In the 1980s darts was a popular sport in the United Kingdom and in many other countries. Alongside snooker, which was attracting 15+ million viewers per final at the time, this game was huge and seemed to be on the increase.
At the time, only the BDO existed. This was the darts organization and it was where all the best players played.
However, there was a big decline toward the end of the decade and this troubled the game’s best players. They worried that the decline would result in smaller prize pools, less sponsorship and limited notoriety, before eventually fading the sport into obscurity. Not only was the decline rapid and worrying, but the players sensed that the BDO weren’t doing anything about it, thus making the situation worse.
They decided that something needed to be done, and that something was to create their own organization, The World Darts Federation. As soon as this happened, all 16 players that formed the WDF were banned from ever competing in the BDO.
Some lengthy legal battles followed and after the dust was settled the WDF changed their name to the Players Darts Championship, BDO agreed to let all players choose which association they wanted to join, and the two organizations maintained their own tournaments and their own rankings.
These days the PDC is much bigger and it is home to stars like Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. It was also where Phil Taylor won most of his titles. In fact, Taylor, who has gone down as the game’s greatest ever player, was one of the 16 players that formed the PDC, along with fellow superstars John Lowe, Eric Bristow, Jocky Wilson and Dennis Priestley.
Buy Dart Supplies in Canada
Before we explain a little about darts tournaments in Canada and Canadian players that have risen through the ranks, let’s focus on how you can get involved with the game on the basic level with your own equipment.
The best place to buy a dartboard is from Amazon.ca. They may not be a specialist retailer, but they have the cheapest boards and there are also multiple types to choose from. Just remember that there are many different types of board out there and while most of these are acceptable for casual home play, some are not.
There are plastic boards that work with interlocking plastic spines; felt boards that barely work at all; and boards made of shoddy materials that are rendered useless within a few plays.
You want a good quality board that holds up against wear and tear. Good dartboards will not show holes, otherwise they would be useless after a single game, and they should not cost you more than $100. Look for a Winmau board, as they tend to be top-dog.
You can visit our Amazon.ca deals page to find yourself a quality board at a discounted price. Just make sure you avoid the toys and focus on the highest quality adult dartboards.
The only other equipment you will need is a set or two of darts, which can also be bought from Amazon; and a cabinet, into which the dartboard can sit. The cabinet will act as a chalk board for you to keep score and it will also defend against wayward throws (to an extent).
The best darts can be expensive as they are made from the finest metals and are balanced in very specific ways to maximize performance. But unless you’re a pro then you shouldn’t be paying more than $10 for a set of three with spare flights.
Darts in Canada
The National Darts Federation of Canada oversees the game of darts in the Great White North. They host countless amateur tournaments every single year and these tournaments are a great springboard for Canadian players who eventually make their way to Europe to play alongside the game’s best.
You can visit the NDFC website to see the list of all upcoming tournaments in your area, many of which are open tournaments that you are free to enter if you can make it through the qualifying stages. There is money to be won in all of these, but most importantly they will help to raise your prestige as a darts player in Canada, which will go a long way to helping you make it to the pro circuit.
Canadian Darts Players
Many of the world’s best players are based in Europe, but there have been a few big name players to play on the BDO and PDC circuit over the years, including:
At the time of writing, Part, who has the amusing nickname Darth Maple, is ranked 79th in the world. With a ranking like that it’s easy to assume that he is a fringe player at best. But Part was a major force during the 1990s and 2000s, winning the BDO World Championship in 1994 and the PDC World Championship in 2003 and 2008.
The Toronto-born Part also finished as the runner-up twice in the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix, and once in the UK Open, and for a period of several months in 2003 he was the world number 1.
Part was the first Canadian player to be inducted in the PDC Hall of Fame and at the time of writing he remains the only Canadian on that list.
Known as “The Silencer”, Smith is a New Brunswick-born darts player who has played in both the BDO and the PDC, spending most of his time in the former but currently playing in the latter.
Smith’s best results have thus far occurred in the BDO. He finished as the runner-up in the 2016 World Championship and made it to the semi-final of the World Darts trophy a year earlier. In the PDC he has yet to make a big impact and plays on the fringes of the world rankings.
Mawson is a professional darts player who owns joint British and Canadian nationalities and currently lives in the US, but Canada is where he was born and it is under the Canadian flag that he plays.
He has spent his pro career on the PDC circuit and his best finish came in the 2008 UK Open, when he finished as the runner-up. He also made it to the last 16 of the World Championship in 1999 and the last 16 of the World Matchplay in 1998 and 1999.
Other Canadian Darts Players
The following Canadian players have also played—and, in most cases, still play—the game at a professional level.
- David Cameron: Plays in the BDO and has won multiple domestic and national competitions over the years.
- Ken MacNeil: Has been playing since 1986 and currently plays in the PDC with a typical world ranking of between 100 and 150.
- Dawson Murschell: An Alberta based player who competes in the PDC.
- Terry Hayhurst: A three-time winner of the Canada National Championships.
- Ross Snook: Has switched between the BDO and PDC over the years, winning several amateur tournaments but not making a significant impact on the pro tour.
How to Watch Darts in Canada
Last but not least, if you’re a fan of this game then you will want to watch some live games on television or even fly to see them in person.
Where to Watch Darts on TV in Canada
There are a few ways that you can watch most major PDC darts tournaments live from the comfort of your own home:
- TV: There is a PDC TV channel showing most games, and if you can stream European channels like Sky Sports or ITV then you can find them there as well.
- Streams: There are hundreds of games streamed live by betting sites like Bet365. If you can’t access the site, don’t worry as many other streaming providers host them for you and they are readily available.
- BBC America: The BBC do not show as many games as they used to in the UK, but they have become the home of darts in North America and have some of the biggest tournaments hosted by the PDC in any given year.
How to See Live Darts in Canada
You can usually catch an amateur game or tournament at your local pub, or you can step up to the nationals and watch a tournament hosted by the NDFC as listed above. But if you want to see the world’s best then here are some tips on doing so cheaply:
- Stick with PDC: The PDC tickets are more expensive than the BDO, but the main expense will be the flights and accommodation, and by comparison the difference in event ticket prices will be a drop in the ocean but the difference in quality (and the memories you have of watching the game’s greats) will be significant.
- Avoid the Big Ones: The World Championship will cost you much more money overall, but there are many small tournaments that the big players still play in. These are hosted at small, cheaper venues throughout the UK, just check with the schedule to see what’s coming up.
- Book in Advance: Once you find a location that suits, book in advance using our Hotels.com, Booking.com or Expedia CA deals to get cheap flights and accommodation.
Darts in Canada: Spread the Word
Just because darts isn’t huge in Canada now doesn’t mean that it won’t be soon. It doesn’t take long for a sport to take hold in a country, to win the hearts of the people and to become the next big thing, especially if they have someone to follow, someone who makes them proud to be Canadian.
So, grab yourself a dartboard, learn about the game and who knows, you could be the next big Canadian darts player, the one who brings this game to the masses in Canada.