How To Play 501 Darts

501 is the most common game to play on a Dart board. It is played across the world in competitions ranging from Pub Darts, all the way up to Premier League Darts. We think it’s pretty important to know the ins and outs of 501 Darts, and here they are.

It’s possible to play a game of 501 darts in singles or pairs but to make things clear, we will assume the players are playing individually. It should also be noted that these exact rules apply to the shorter 301 version of the game. It would also be a good idea to make sure your dart board regulations are all correct before proceeding.

The aim of the game, is to go from a score of 501 to 0, in as few darts as possible. All scores are deducted.

Getting Started

To start a leg of 501 darts, we need to decide who is going to throw first. This can be done by tossing a coin but the preferred method, is to throw for the bullseye. Each player has one dart each to throw and the closest to the bullseye, gets to choose who will throw first. If both players hit the bullseye or the distance away from the bullseye is the same for both darts, the players will remove their darts from the board and throw again, until one dart is closer. Whoever’s dart is closest, has the choice to go first or second but it’s wise, if winning the bull, to throw first, as this is an advantage and known as ‘having the darts’.

The majority of 501 competition games, start with players throwing ‘straight in’ and not having to hit a double first. However, if you are playing a game of 501 and you are unsure of the rules regarding the start of the match, ask for the local rules first, as they could be different. However, in the majority of cases, it will be a ‘straight in’ start and the first thrower can start scoring immediately.

What Should I Throw For?

The first player throws three darts, trying to score the highest total possible, which in this case, would be 180 (3 x treble 20). The total score of the three darts is recorded and taken away from 501 by the marker.

The second player then steps up and throws their three darts, in an attempt to do exactly the same thing. This format continues, until one player is left on a finish.

Finish Them

This is where things can become a little more complicated because players need to finish on a double. This means, the last dart thrown, to reduce the score to 0, not only has to be the exact number remaining but it has to be a double.

For example, if a player steps up for their throw and they are on 100, they have an opportunity to win the leg with these three darts. The best way to do this, would be to hit the treble 20, which would score 60 points and leave 40 points remaining. Double 20 is equal to 40 points, so by hitting this double, the leg would be complete and the player throwing will win.

It does not matter which double the leg is ended with and the bullseye can also be used to finish off a leg. A score of 170, is the largest number which can be finished in a game of darts and the player would need to hit 2 x treble 20, which is worth 120 points in total and the bullseye, which is worth 50 points.

There are a huge number of combinations available to finish a leg of darts and players like to practice them all, so when they come up in a leg of 501, they know exactly how to finish them, without even needing to think about it. That being said, if you are unsure about all the different combinations to finish a leg of 501, there are cards available, which detail all the numbers which can be finished with 3 darts or less and what to aim for to get them.

Where You Don’t Want To Be

It’s possible for a leg of 501 darts to come down to a score of 2, which is double 1 or often referred to as being the ‘mad house’. Players try to stay away from double 1 because if the dart hits anything else on the board, including the single 1, their throw is over and they will have to come back and try again, after the opponent has thrown. This applies to any score registered, which is over the total remaining on the scoreboard.

As mentioned above, 501 can also be played in pairs and each player on both teams, takes it in turns to throw but the rules are exactly the same as above.

With a little bit of practice, the rules will become second nature in no time at all. We encourage everyone to find an opponent and give this great game a crack. If 501 darts doesn’t tickle your fancy, never fear! There are loads of other games to play on a dart board.

501 Darts FAQs

Here’s some questions many people have about 501, and we’ll do our best to answer them. 

What are the rules of 501 darts?

Put simply, players start with a score of 501 (also common to start on 301 for shorter games). Each player alternates throwing 3 darts at a time. The score of each dart is tallied, and deducted from the 501 score. Once players scores are within 170 of 0 (170 is the highest possible checkout), you can attempt to finish the game. To win, you need to hit an outer double. For example, if your score is 32, you need to hit the double 16. If you are on 50, you can also attempt to hit the bullseye, which is the only other way outside of hitting a double where you can win the game. If you happen to go over the 501 score, you have “busted” and return to your previous score to try again.

How do you keep score in 501 darts?

Usually, you will have a scorer tallying the totals, and updating a scoreboard next to the dart board. If you are playing casually, you can save yourself the hassle and download a darts scoring app which takes care of it for you. 

What is the lowest number of darts you need to win a game of 501?

9 darts – this is extremely hard to accomplish, basically requiring 9 perfect darts. There’s countless videos on youtube of the best 9 dart finishes. We have an article highlighting the top 3 best 9 dart finishes of all time.

What happens if you get to 1 in 501 darts?

Firstly, bad luck. Secondly, this means you have busted, and it’s now the end of your turn. Once your opponent finishes their turn, you will start back at your score before you previously busted. 

How do I get better at 501 darts?

This is a loaded question, and luckily we have produced a fall guide on how to get better at darts. If we had to give one bit of advice – consistent practice and tracking your averages will help you improve!


Your Darts Team
Your Darts Team

Passionate and highly knowledgeable, our team at Your Darts is composed of dedicated experts who live and breathe darts. With years of experience in the game, we bring you unparalleled insights, strategies, and tips to enhance your dart throwing skills. From mastering the perfect stance to understanding the intricacies of different dart types, we're here to elevate your game and share our unwavering enthusiasm for the sport. Join us on a journey of continuous improvement and achievement on the oche.