Darts is an individual sport so that means when you win, you take 100% of the praise but if you lose, you also have to take 100% of the accountability and blame.
As a result, darts has seen some fantastic players over the years who pass the eye test, look good from the stats, but don’t seem to win as much as we’d think they should.
These are the darts underachievers.
Players who show promise, incredible talent, and look like they could be world beaters but for some reason just seem to fall short of reaching greatness.
Read on as we give you a list of 6 of the biggest darts underachievers, be prepared as I’m sure there’s going to be some you don’t agree with…
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6) Dennis Priestley
This is the most unfair pick on this list because Dennis Priestley (one of my favourite players growing up) had a successful career in both the BDO and PDC.
However, he had the unfortunate position of making it to countless finals only to meet a prime Phil Taylor who won the PDC World Championship 11 out of 13 times between 1994 and 2006.
The other two times he was runner up and fortunately, Priestley was one of the few people to beat him in a final during that incredible run of dominance.
Unlucky might be a better word to describe Priestley than underachiever because in a world without Phil Taylor, Priestley could have had his own spell of dominance during that era.
I don’t think it would have been anything like the level Taylor had but he definitely had the ability to win more than just a single World Championship.
He beat both Taylor and Eric Bristow in 1991 to win the BDO World Championship and then beat Taylor in the final for his only PDC World Championship.
This was before Taylor then went on to dominate so if it weren’t for coming up against the greatest darts player of all time, Priestley could have had a far, far more accomplished career.
** He did still have a successful career that would arguably see him considered a top 10 player of all time.
With 3 BDO majors, a PDC major win and several runners-up his record is up there with the best but were it not for Phil Taylor, Priestley’s career could have arguably been so much more…
5) Peter Manley
Peter Manley is a late 90’s – early 00’s darts player who, unlike many players from that time, never played in the BDO and went straight to the professional league (PDC).
Often seen as a ‘pantomime villain’, Manley’s controversy overshadowed his playing ability for the majority of his career.
Especially his feud with a then dominant Phil Taylor which saw him lose three World Championship finals to Taylor in 1999, 2002, and 2006.
Manyley has a similar story to Priestley which lands him on this list.
He had clear darting ability and even held the world number one ranking for periods during 2003, however, it didn’t matter how well he played because he could never overcome the dominance of Taylor.
He did win one major during his career, the Las Vegas Desert Classic beating John Part in the final but it’s his performance after 2010 that sees his land firmly on this list of underachievers.
With 13 relatively steady years in the PDC, Manley lost his tour card in 2011 due to declining form.
This happens and players often make a comeback, however, Manley entered Q School and tried to regain his tour card but was unsuccessful for 8 consecutive years from 2012 – 2019.
For a three time World Championship finalist, to fail at so many attempts to make it back onto the pro scene just goes to show how damaging a loss of form can be in a now incredibly competitive darts league.
It also highlights that Manley wanted to play pro for an extended period of time so that fact that he could never make it back after so many attempts is a main reason why we see him as one of darts greatest underachievers.
A good career no doubt but a lack of form meant it was a career much shorter than he’d have wanted…
4) Ronnie Baxter
According to Wikipedia, Ronnie Baxter is considered as one of the best players never to have won a major tv title.
We’ve previously made a list of the best players to never win a major which you can check out here and while Baxter doesn’t appear on that list, I can see why people have this opinion…
Baxter has been a runner-up in both the BDO & PDC leagues.
That other list we made had some of the best players to never win a PDC title but included some BDO winners such as Mervyn King and Martin Adams.
For Baxter to be runner-up in both leagues means that he’s either incredibly unlucky or that he’s actually an underachiever, the fact that he’s fourth on this list means that we think it’s the latter!
Baxter played regularly for 24 years across both divisions. 1991–2001 in the BDO and 2002–2015 in the PDC. During that time he made it to the following finals:
- BDO World Championship (1999 & 2000)
- Winmau World Masters (1997)
- PDC World Matchplay (1998)
- Las Vegas Desert Classic (2002)
As you can see from the above, his best years came in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
Between 2003–2008 his form was still consistent, reaching a number of semi-finals and quarter-finals in major tournaments but he wasn’t the same player he was during his peak.
There are more talented players than Baxter but considering the run he had and potential he showed, he can surely be considered to have underachieved based on the opportunities he had.
3) Dave Chisnall
Dave Chisnall (“Chizzy”), just like Ronnie Baxter, is someone I consider to not only be one of the best players to never win a major but THE best player to never win a major.
For anyone that has followed darts of the last 10–15 years, you’ll know that Chizzy is one of the most liked players on the circuit by everyone, however, he’s not just likable… Chizzy can play!!
He’s been a top 16 player for most of his PDC career and not only that, the majority of that time has been spent as a top 10 player.
Even at the time of writing this (2024), Chizzy is ranked 10th on the PDC Order of Merit.
He’s had a decade of being a consistent and top player but the reason he’s on this list is because somehow, he’s never won a major – both in the BDO & PDC.
During his career to date, he’s been a run up in the following:
- BDO World Championship
- PDC World Grand Prix (twice)
- PDC Grand Slam of Darts
- PDC Master (twice)
- PDC Players Championship
- PDC World Series (twice) ** Note this is not classed as a major)
That’s 7 runners-up spots for a major and 2x runner-ups in the World Series.
The reason we don’t consider Chizzy to be one of the biggest underachievers in darts is because he’s won 22 non-televised competitions meaning he’s clearly a winner.
He can win tournaments but for some reason he just can win the biggest ones.
His ranking could be a reason for this. In 2021 Luke Humphries was ranked 8th, In 2022 he was ranked 3rd and this then led to his dominant year in 2023 when he cleared up on every big major to go 1st in the world rankings going into 2024.
Most players competing for the top 5 spots get the first major win that usually sees them kick on (with confidence) to have periods of dominance in the sport.
Related – Is darts a sport?
Unfortunately, Chizzy hasn’t had this win that could give him the momentum to go on and win like most of us think he should have done on a regular basis.
Recently, Stephen Bunting went on to win his first major so we won’t write off Chizzy just yet but as it stands currently, he is definitely one of the best players to not reach a career peak that we think he should have done.
2) Adrian Lewis
Adrian Lewis, the 2 time World Champion… Surely I’ve made a mistake with this one.
Lewis has had a career that 99% of players would happily retire on with 14 PDC Major Finals (4 wins and 10 runners-up), however, I think most people believe that he could have been so much more.
The training partner, protege and touted successor to Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis was supposed to dominate the PDC once Taylors reign finally came to an end but it was instead MVG who seemed to take that mantle with Lewis falling off the radar from 2016 onward.
Lewis had a career peak from 2011 (his first World Championship win) to 2014 where he reached 9 of his 14 Major Finals, winning 4 of them.
A controversial player who had multiple on stage altercations, there was no doubting that Lewis had great ability when it came to darts but unlike some of the other darts greats, his peak seems incredibly short in comparison.
It’s never really been discussed why he wasn’t able to build on his initial success and it can be argued that Lewis has had one of the steepest downfalls of any elite dart player.
After 2016, Lewis never made it to another major final and was frequently knocked out in the early rounds of pretty much every event he entered, televised or non televised.
You can see his Wikipedia performance timeline is very skewed to a few peak years and it seems that Lewis shone incredibly bright for a period but then that lights seemed to fade just as quickly.
Screenshot credit: Wikipedia
In my opinion, Lewis could have challenged MVG, Wade, Anderson, and Wright for a decade (easily).
He had the ability and was a proven winner so it’s not like he crumbled under pressure but for whatever reason, his peak might have been one of the shortest we’ve seen for a player of his caliber.
1) Michael Van Gerwen
Ok, if you thought Adrian Lewis was a pretty hot take then you’re really not going to like this pick but I think Michael Van Gerwen is the biggest underachiever in darts history.
MVG has 47 Majors which is second only to Phil Taylor (72) and 4x more than anyone else for a start.
He was the World No 1 for 6 consecutive years without even dropping off for a single month, has the most PDC nine darters (24), has earned the most prize money of any PDC player in history and was long considered the person to overtake Taylor as the darts GOAT.
He even said himself that “Taylor was lucky I wasn’t born 10 years earlier”, indicating that MVG doesn’t think Taylor could have dominated as he did if MVG was on the scene.
It’s definitely a fair comment for him to make, however, MVG HAS NOT dominated his era like Taylor did in his.
Even with that mighty list of accolades, how can I put him as the biggest underachiever?
For all his dominance in almost every area of darts, he hasn’t dominated as much on the biggest stage (PDC World Championship) and pales in comparison to Taylor.
Let me highlight the two for comparison:
|Michael Van Gerwen
It’s clear from the comparison that MVG with 3 wins is barely even in the conversation when it comes to dominance when looking at Taylor’s astonishing 14 wins.
It’s also interesting to look at the performances from a percentage viewpoint. With 14 wins in 25 appearances, Phil Taylor has a win percentage of 56% and with 19 finals appearances he made the final 76% of the time.
This is truly some stat – If Taylor entered a World Championship you could flip a coin for whether he’d win or lose the entire tournament.
MVG on the other hand has a win percentage of 17.5% and a finals percentage of 35%.
This means that Taylor was so dominant he was statistically twice as likely to reach the final and was also more likely to win the entire thing than MVG was just to make it to the finals.
This is no shade intended on MVG, his stats alone show some level of dominance but Taylor really has blown him away.
MVG has won it the 2nd most in history and also been in the 2nd most finals of any other player, however, four other players have won it twice so the gap between 2nd and everyone else is marginal when compared against the gap between 1st and 2nd.
Gary Anderson having 2 wins and 3 runner-up performances is almost on a par with MVG and this coming from a player who has never been ranked No 1.
MVG is still one of the best players in the world (top 3) so I expect him to continue racking up stats and overtaking Taylor in most categories over the coming years.
For all his dominance and accomplishments though, when comparing his World Championship accolades to Taylor, it’s hard to believe that he has only won it 3 times. I was
What did you think of our list?
Who would you change, are the positions right, have we missed someone obvious? Let us know below what you think👇👇👇
If you’ve found this interesting then check out our other articles like:
- Best dart players to never win a championship
- How to become a professional darts player