Darts Etiquette

Darts Etiquette

Andy Cornwall |

Darts Etiquette: the unwritten rules every player should follow during a game of darts

Are you new to darts? Have you just signed up to your local darts team or thinking of entering some tournaments? The chances are you may not know the “unwritten rules” when it comes to the etiquette generally adhered to by players during matches.

Darts Corner has put together a comprehensive list of some of the most universally adopted rules that players follow when involved in a competitive scenario. These dos and don’ts for league matches and open tournaments are there to help you be polite and show good sportsmanship to your opponent. Following these etiquette guidelines will ensure you get your darts matches off on the right foot and quickly earn the respect of your fellow players.

Remain silent whilst your opponent is throwing

If you have caught the darts bug whilst watching the world’s top players on television, you will have seen the raucous atmospheres that the crowds generate during matches. This is often not replicated in your local pub league or tournament, with most players expecting the “best of order” whilst they are throwing.

It is admittedly difficult to have complete silence in a venue with lots of people, but at the very least during your match you should avoid talking or making any kind of noise when your opponent is at the oche. One of the most high-profile incidents of this was at the 2006 PDC World Darts Championship, when Peter Manley was seen talking behind Adrian Lewis, who then walked off stage part way through their quarter-final clash at the Circus Tavern.

Don’t play with your darts whilst your opponent is throwing

On the similar theme of keeping quiet whilst your opponent is at the oche, avoid making any noise with your darts when it is not your turn to throw. A noise can be made by rattling your three darts together or by flicking the flights on your darts with your fingers.

Another noise you can make with your darts is when you sharpen the points with a darts sharpener. It is not uncommon to have to sharpen your darts during a match or make some running repairs to them if you have a broken flight or shaft. It is best practice to do this when your opponent is not throwing unless you can make the repairs without making a noise that your opponent will hear.

Keep your distance when your opponent is at the oche

If you are playing in a match, make sure you and your opponent give each other enough room when it is their turn to throw. This is not an issue for the professionals in the PDC tournaments that are shown on television, as you will see a box marked out on the stage that goes around the oche called the ‘exclusion zone’. Players are not permitted to stand in the exclusion zone when it is their opponent’s turn to throw.

Whilst you should not expect to have an ‘exclusion zone’ marked out on the floor when you play in your local league or tournament, you are expected to keep your distance from your opponent when they are throwing. Some players may raise their back leg when they throw, so the last thing you want is for someone to accidently kick you because you are standing too close behind them!

Darts Exclusion Zone

The stage on the Premier League has an ‘exclusion zone’ which players must stay out of when it is not their turn to throw

Retrieve your darts from the board in a timely manner

Once you have finished your turn make sure you go and collect your darts in a timely manner. Whilst your opponent would not expect a Usain Bolt-like sprint to the board to retrieve your darts, you should not be dawdling about and try to clear the way for your opponent to throw within an adequate amount of time.

You may hear from time-to-time players or commentators referring to ‘rhythm’ or ‘pace of play’ during matches. Generally speaking, players like to settle into their own rhythm when playing which will help them produce their best game. If you adopt a slow walk to collect your darts, it is likely to disrupt your opponent and can be deemed as unsportsmanlike.

Shake hands or touch fists with your opponent at the beginning and end of the match

Each match you play should start and finish with a handshake or touch of fists between you and your opponent. This is seen as a mark of respect between the two players before they start a match, and a sign of sportsmanship at the end of the match to congratulate the winner and commiserate the loser.

In matches on TV, you will almost always see the two players on stage shake hands or touch fists after they have thrown their six or nine practice darts. The referee will address the crowd and say “game on” to indicate the match is about to begin and it is at this time the players will acknowledge each other before one of them throws the first three darts of the match. Players will also repeat this greeting once the winning double has been hit and the winner of the match has been declared.

Darts Handshakes

James Wade and Josh Rock shake hands ahead of their Grand Slam of Darts quarter-final encounter

Don’t take a long time to get to the oche for your throw

A similar one to retrieving your darts from the board in a timely manner, you should also try not to prolong the time it takes you to step up to the oche for your throw. Delaying tactics are frowned upon and can be seen as gamesmanship if you appear to be slowing the game down on purpose.

Every player has their own preferred pace and rhythm to their game, but you should not try and change this in an attempt to put off your opponent. If you are playing a slower player, speeding up your own game is unlikely to make them go any faster and vice versa, slowing down your game against a fast player can be detrimental to your own game as you will not be playing at the pace that you typically favor yourself.

Always walk back past the oche on the same side

This is an unwritten rule that can often trip players up, especially those who are new to the game and playing in a competitive environment. When you next watch darts on television, you will notice the players always turn to their right after retrieving their darts from the board and then walk back past the oche to the side. This is done mainly for the benefit of the television cameras, as if the players walked back from the other side, they would block the camera shot of the other player throwing, which is used for the split-screen visual of the board on the left and the player throwing on the right.

Depending on the playing conditions in the venue you are in, you may find there is more room to the left than the right, and in this case, it could be agreed before the match that the players will turn to the left after collecting their darts. Once this has been decided, you should stick to this and avoid switching between the two sides as this can be distracting for your opponent.

Darts Oche

Rob Cross (right) walks back past the oche after retrieving his darts. Players will turn to their right each time once collecting their darts from the board to avoid blocking the television camera that focuses on the player throwing

Flag up any scoring disputes with the marker when it is your turn to throw

If you are playing in a darts league or your local tournament, the chances are you will have someone marking your game for you. This person is referred to as the ‘marker’ (or the ‘chalker’) and they will keep track of the scores of both you and your opponent via an electronic scoreboard, a tablet, a whiteboard or a traditional chalkboard.

You may have a dispute for one of your scores being incorrect, such as a dart in the treble 20 (worth 60 points) being registered as a single 20 (worth 20 points) if it is obscured or close to the wire between the two segments. There may have just been a scoring error where the marker has not added up your score correctly, for example if you have a visit like treble 17, single 14 and treble 12 which is uncommon and is not a score that gets added up very often. If you need to flag up an incorrect score, the darts etiquette is to wait until after your opponent has thrown and it is back to your turn, rather than disrupting their turn with a query to the marker about your last score.

Don’t drink your opponent’s water/drink

Players drinking their opponent’s drink is something that flagged up at the 2024 Belgian Darts Open, when Krzysztof Ratajski twice drank from Luke Littler’s water bottle on stage (see video below). In PDC events on stage, there are two separate tables, so each player has their own one for their darts case and other items, along with their own bottles of water.

At a crowded darts venue, it can be difficult to tell which drink is yours, so if you are sharing a table, it is a good idea before playing to each make a note of where you and your opponent’s drink is to avoid something similar happening in your game.

Stand still behind your opponent when they are throwing

It is important not to make any noise verbally or with your darts whilst your opponent is throwing, but also try and stand still behind them as well. You could be playing in a venue with a creaky floorboard or flooring which makes a lot of noise when you move around, so before you play it is worth taking a few seconds to assess the playing conditions and if you need to be careful when moving around in between throws.

There have been incidents in the past during matches between the professionals on television that one player has accused the other of making noises behind them while they are throwing. This can include stamping their feet on the floor or generating noise from a creaky floorboard. It is best practice to remain as still as possible once you have walked back past the oche to avoid making any unnecessary noises.

When bulling up, remove your dart if you have thrown first

Many darts leagues and tournaments will follow the PDC’s ruling on bulling up before the start of a match. To determine which player throws first, each player will take turns throwing one dart at the bullseye and the closest dart is deemed the winner. The PDC’s rule sees the first player remove their dart from the board, leaving a clear target for the second player, and only outer bullseyes and bullseyes will register.

This ruling came into play following the memorable 2007 PDC World Darts Championship final between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld. The final went to a sudden-death leg and both players had to bull up to decide who would throw first in the last leg (see video below). Taylor went first and hit an outer bullseye, with van Barneveld using Taylor’s dart as a marker to hit the bullseye and win the throw, and ultimately win the sudden-death leg to win the tournament. It was later deemed to be an unfair advantage for van Barneveld in the bull up, as he had a marker to aim for with Taylor’s dart to hit the bullseye with his dart. Make sure you check what rule your league or tournament is operating for the bull up, so you do not get caught out when it is your turn to play.

If you have supporters, ensure they stay quiet during your opponent’s throw

A fairly self-explanatory one, if you are playing in a match and have supporters, such as friends or family with you, then make sure they stay quiet during your opponent’s throw. This is particularly important in a local darts setting, such as a pub league or open tournament, where unnecessary noise can be more distracting when it is your opponent’s turn to throw.

The last thing you want is to grow a reputation in the darts world as someone who brings a noisy and disrespectful group of supporters to their matches. Make sure your group show respect to the game and your opponent by giving them the best of order when they are at the oche.

If your opponent hits a big checkout/nine-dart leg, politely/subtly congratulate them

Continuing the theme of being respectful to your opponent, it is common practice nowadays to acknowledge when they hit a big checkout. This can be a 170 finish, which is the highest checkout in the game, or if a player completes the perfect leg and finishes a game of 501 in nine darts.

Even midway through a game, players can show respect to their opponent if they check out a big finish with a touch of fists or a high five or a pat on the back. Whilst this is not in any rule book, in the spirit of the game players are more likely to react in a positive manner when their opponent takes out a big shot, but inside they can hide their displeasure that the checkout was hit against them and not someone else!

Darts Nine Darter

Ryan Searle (left) takes in the applause from his opponent Nathan Rafferty (right) after throwing a nine-dart leg at the 2023 Grand Slam of Darts

Game on!

Now you know the dos and don’ts when it comes to darts etiquette, it is time to step up to the oche and start testing your skills against the competition. If you are a newcomer to the game, follow the unwritten rules explained in this blog and you will soon be regarded as a player who respects the game and plays darts the way it is meant to be played. Be respectful to your opponent and the game and your darts playing experience will be an enjoyable one for many years to come!

If we have missed any ‘unwritten rules’ in darts, please get in touch with us and let us know via our contact us page or social media channels!

Pictures: PDC

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