When it comes to darts practice games – or just dart games in general – the most popular game globally is the X01 dart games. For professional matches, 501 is the standard and the game most often played in leagues or practice.
For many people though, 501 can be a bit tedious when you play it over and over and over again.
For beginner players especially, a game of 501 can also take far too long to finish as you likely don’t yet have the ability to group darts or hit trebles. While a good player can finish a game in 21 – 30 darts, a beginner might take 100+ darts just to finish one game!
Check out my guide on good dart averages here.
If this is you, there is a way you can still enjoy the X01 games without taking forever to finish and that is to play 301 darts. The shorter game format allows players a large enough starting score to still practice trebles, whilst also allowing for quicker games which is perfect for a beginner.
In this article, I’ll focus on how to play 301 darts and give some rules, tips, and guides to make it easy to follow and play for yourself.
Number of Players for 301 Darts
301 Darts can be for between 2-4 players. Whether you want to play a one-on-one game, or pair up and create your own dart team, it’s up to you.
301 Darts Rules and Scoring
Each player starts with 301 points and whoever reaches 0 first, wins. Sounds simple enough, right? You need to, however, score 301 exactly. For example, if you have 38 points left, and score 39, then you go ‘bust’ and you’ll have to start from 38 again on your next turn.
Here’s what you should know about 301 Darts Rules and Scoring.
Before getting into the rules and the scoring, let’s start with the very basics – what you’ll need to play the game.
- A standard tournament size 18” dartboard (If you choose a smaller one, it becomes harder throughout your gameplay so the larger one is suitable for beginners and professionals alike.)
- A standard set of steel-tipped darts (up to 12”)
- A scoreboard (Whether this is pen and paper or a chalkboard, it’s your choice!)
To start the game, you’ll need to decide who goes first. Whoever throws closest to the bullseye can begin.
To begin scoring, each player must aim for a double. Until this happens, your score will remain at 301. It can either be a number between 1 and 20, or even the bullseye.
Although this is the standard way to play 301 darts, you can modify it slightly to make it more suitable for your players. Beginners may want to ‘single out’ and aim for singles to start, whereas professionals may want to ‘master out’ and aim for triples.
You’ll need to know what each section on the dartboard means as it’s vital to the scoring.
- The centre (normally red) circle is called a bullseye. Hit this and score 50 points. Hit the outer circle surrounding the bullseye and score 25 points.
- Circling the exterior of the dartboard are numbers between 1 and 20 and this displays the number of points you may get. If you hit the larger areas of the dartboard, you’ll score the numerical value that you’ve hit.
- If the dart hits the thin outer ring (which normally interchanges between red and green depending on the number), then this is counted as a double. Depending on where your dart has landed, you’ll score double points for the numerical value. For example, if you hit 16 on the thin outer ring, you’ll score 32 points.
- If the dart lands on the thin middle ring, then you score triple points of the numerical value that you’ve hit.
Each round, players have 3 darts each to attempt to score as highly as possible.
How to Play 301 Darts
Once you’ve decided who is going first, here’s what you need to do to play 301 Darts.
- Step 1 – Positioning: Maintaining the correct posture throughout will help your gameplay. Unless you’re left-handed, stand with your right foot forward and lean.
- Step 2 – Grip: It’s important to relax when holding the dart. A majority of people hold the dart with two fingers, but if you want to use three, it may allow you to gain more control.
- Step 3 – Aim: When aiming the dart, bring it to eye level, position your arm at a 90-degree angle and focus on the target. To increase accuracy, you can close one eye. A lot of players tend to aim for numbers on the left-hand side of the dartboard as
- Step 4 – Throw: Using your wrist and hand, throw the dart towards the dartboard. To increase the speed, use your elbow. When you throw, extend your arm and your wrist should snap forward.
- Step 5 – Scoring: Calculate the scores using the above system. Adding up your score after each turn makes it easier to keep track of your gameplay and monitor what you need to aim for next.
301 Darts Example Game
Each player starts with 301 points. Say that on the first go, player 1 scores double 20, this will deduct 40 points from their score and they’ll be left with 261 points. Each turn is a chance to reduce the points as much as possible.
When it gets towards the end, this is where scoring and the game can be a little more interesting. If player 1 has managed to get down to 56, in three dart throws, they’ll need to add up their score to 56. If they go bust, it’s then the next person’s turn to try and get their individual score to 0 before their opposition.
Below is an example scoreboard for a game between two decent standard players:
|Player 1||Player 2|
301 Darts Tips & Strategies
Much like 501 darts, the key to 301 is not only to score as many points as possible with each throw but also to finish once you get down to a double or checkout shot. As Bobby George famously said:
“trebles for show, doubles for dough”.
Therefore, the main tip to work on before playing 301 darts is to master your finishing and dart checkouts. Being able to check out a double in 3 – 6 darts is easier said than done (especially when professionals do this in 1 – 2 darts) but it’s an unrivalled advantage if you can get a shot at the double and finish it quickly.
When I first started to practice 301, I’d get down to the double (I started to get the occasional 100+ score) but then I’d be stuck on the double for ages and would get beat simply because I couldn’t checkout quickly enough. Working on this aspect will greatly improve your chances of winning a game of 301 darts.
Another tip I’d suggest is to learn your darts math and checkout shots. As soon as you hesitate with a darts throw, your accuracy and consistency will be lost and one of the major causes of this is not being able to calculate your score fast enough.
Learning the basic out shots and also scoring sequences will improve your throwing consistency without having to work on your technique at all. It’s not incredibly easy to learn dart math, but there are only so many combinations of shots so if you memorize frequently hit numbers, you’ll speed up your decision making between throws.
Professional dart players are not necessarily good at maths, they just know the combination of shots through memory. The best example when playing 301 is the first shot, if you hit 100, you are left with 201. I’ve not done that math in my head, I just remember it from countless attempts. Therefore, learn the math and it will help you when it comes to checkout shots.
Finally, you might have seen this coming but practice. There are no quick tips to suddenly become great at darts (though I do have a beginners guide on how to get better at darts), you need to practice and master the motor skills that allow for a consistent and accurate through.
101 is a good darts game for practising checkouts, 301 is good for practising as a beginner, and 501 is the competitive version so getting better at 301 darts will make you a better player at 501 over time.
The game of 301 darts is relatively straightforward and simple – take turn scoring until you get down to a double (or bullseye) finish. For most players, this is the ideal game to work your way up to before you practice 501 darts.
501 is a much longer format game, especially for beginners and while you see players hit an average of 12 – 15 dart legs on TV, most beginners can 10X that number and could see a single game take 10 minutes easily.
Therefore, 301 darts can be a quick warmup game for experienced players or something that beginners can use to practice for.