There will be two specific types of people reading this article:
- Beginners interested in what it takes to become a professional dart player
- Good dart players seriously considering becoming a professional
The end goal is to earn a PDC Tour Card which allows players to compete at the highest possible level in darts. With that comes the fame and the prize money – for players that are good enough to earn the winnings of course!
Below, we’ll take a step by step guide to show players how you can go from a complete beginner in the game of darts to a professional player. For many players, the path is clear and you are only limited by your own ability or ambition so read on to find out how to become a professional dart player…
How to Become a Professional Dart Player
To become a professional dart player, you need to earn a PDC Tour Card.
The PDC is the Professional Dart Corporation and a governing body in darts. They arrange tournaments, negotiate TV coverage, bring in sponsorship, and most importantly provide prize money which allows dart players to make a salary from the game and be considered a professional player.
The PDC Tour Card allows 128 qualified and ranked players the opportunity to play professionally for two years which is the duration for which they can hold a tour card. A further requirement to this is that in order to stay automatically qualified as a professional player, you need to be ranked in the top 64 places once a tour card has expired after two years..
The remaining 50% need to regain their tour card through qualification in the darts Q school.
For now, we’re rushing ahead on the process. The bottom line is that to be a professional dart player, you need to earn your PDC Tour Card, but there is an initial process you need to follow in order to get to this stage. In order to become a professional dart player you need to:
- Practice and learn to throw darts accurately and consistently
- Improve your dart average
- Enter local/national competitions and leagues
- Enter Q school to compete and earn a PDC Tour Card
Below, we’ll cover each of these in more detail.
The very first step you need to take on your path to becoming a professional dart player is to practice.
Darts is a game that is made up of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and extended periods of mental focus and no one starting the game of darts is blessed with all three as a beginner.
Many people may have already heard of this but there is a general rule that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, also researched and known as the 10,000 hour rule. That is for mastery of a skill and it’s an average, most people looking to get to a very good standard can do so in less time.
To get to a good standard though you will need to practice and master the basic fundamentals of darts which include:
- How to grip a dart
- How to release a dart with consistency
- How to aim a dart
- How to group darts
- How to score heavily
- How to finish doubles
- How to hit 2-3 dart checkouts
Each of these are deliberate skills and take time to build. You need to set time each day to practice and this practice will also need to be deliberate and intentional. A 25 minute, focused practice will provide 10x more benefit than a 60 minute casual throw at the board.
Professional dart players practice for up to a maximum of 3.5 playing hours per day. When you factor in scheduled breaks, a typical day of practice can last for 5-6 hours. This is less than most people working full time jobs but significantly more time than most players will practice.
On average, an amatuer dart player will practice for 30-45 minutes per day, 3-4 days per week. This is usually spaced around family time, work, social occasions, and dart matches (which are a type of practice but they are not dedicated practice sessions).
An optimal practice routine should be deliberate and focused. As a guide, you should practice for 20-25 minutes before taking a short 3-5 minute break and then practice for another 20-25 minutes before taking a longer 30 minute break. This means that a typical practice session should last 45-50 minutes with professional players taking anywhere from 1-3 of these per day.
The best example to demonstrate how quickly you can turn professional in darts with dedicated practice is Gerwyn Price. This is a player who came from a separate sport (rugby) as a professional player and then made the switch to the game of darts.
This means he already had many fundamental habits required to make it into the game quickly like an ability to handle pressure, knowing how to commit to dedicated practice, and having the mental aspect of competitive sport already in place.
With those advantages aside, Gerwyn went from a rank beginner to a rank 1 dart player in 7 years. It took Gerwyn just 1 year to practice and enter Q school which earned him a tour card in 2014. It then took 4 years for him to compete with the best of the best and start to win some major tournaments.
It would therefore take 1-3 years of dedicated practice to turn pro and a further 3-5 years before you can start to compete with the very best players. This is a general guide and there will be exceptions but if you want to turn pro, be prepared to practice consistently for 5-10 years before you see any sort of success.
Your practice should therefore be with a specific focus, to improve your darts average…
2. Improve Your Darts Average
Practice is all well and good but it’s relatively pointless if you don’t improve enough to compete at the highest level. Players can practice for an unlimited amount of time but unfortunately, some people never make it to the required level necessary to turn professional.
While mental attributes and an ability to handle pressure are not something you can measure, your darts average certainly is.
The top ranked players in the world have a 3 dart average of around 100. To put that into perspective, an average player who plays darts casually will typically have a darts average of 40-50. That’s a significant difference between an average player that thinks they are good at darts (no offense) and the very best players.
For a better reference, a professional player will average between 80-95 for their 3-dart average outside of the top 10 ranked players so a 3-dart average of 80 is a minimum requirement for anyone that wants to be competitive at the pro level in the modern game.
Therefore, a key marker you want to focus on when practicing is to improve your darts average in order to become a pro. There are other important factors like finishing and checking out on doubles but as a key component that is measurable, getting your dart average above 70 is something you should do before you are ready to enter Q school and attempt to qualify for the pro tour.
I practiced for 2 weeks, averaged 28 darts per leg which equates to a 3-dart average of 54 and had a few 180s and sub 17 dart legs which is good enough to be competitive in a league but means I wouldn’t even win a leg in Q school with that kind of standard.
Just tracking your average will give you a good idea of your current playing standard and you can also see how you are improving over time.
3. Compete In Tournaments and Leagues
Outside of improving your dart average, you will also aim to compete at certain levels in order to gauge your current playing ability.
This is not essential, a player can enter Q school without ever having thrown a dart in a league or tournament as the qualifying tournament is open to anyone over the age of 18, you just need to pay the entry fee.
Though it’s not essential to play in any local tournaments or leagues, it’s important to get an idea of your current playing ability and to also see how you handle match situations. There is a huge difference between playing darts in your home with no competition/pressure compared with playing in front of other people with pressure darts.
Some of the best players never make it to the professional level simply because they can’t handle their nerves when it comes to the big stage. Therefore, progressing from a league player, to a super league player, to a county player, to an international player are all steps you can take to see how you compare with some of the best players at each level.
Phil Taylor used to play county level darts so this isn’t a step that just a few people follow, it’s a well walked path for progression and puts you in a great position (as well as building confidence) for when it’s time to finally enter the qualifying tournament for the PDC.
4. Enter Q School
Finally, once you have played in enough tournaments, have an idea of your playing standard and want to attempt to become a professional dart player, the PDC offers multiple paths to qualify for a professional status.
The main path to entry is through Q-School. The PDC Q school is a qualifying event held annually in both the UK & Europe and offers players of any ability the opportunity to compete for a PDC Tour Card. The only entry requirements are a £450-£500 entry fee and players need to be over the age of 18 in order to compete.
This tournament is held over two days and players compete and progress to earn their spot on the PDC circuit.
Places are limited though, as mentioned earlier there are only 128 places on the PDC circuit and with the top 64 ranked players maintaining their spot, competition for the remaining tour spots is fierce.
The PDC also offers other routes players can take in order to make their way to the PDC circuit. Firstly, from a youth level players can compete in the Junior Darts Corporation (JDC).
The JDC offers players under the age of 18 a format to learn the game and progress in a sporting and competitive environment until they reach the age that they can compete at a professional standard and enter Q school.
Make no mistake though, current youth players have averages that are comparable and better than professional players pre-2000s so the standard is high!
There is also the PDC development tour for players aged 16-23 which is a step up from the JDC and is a PDC promoted and run event giving players a small glimpse of what it would be like to play on the pro circuit.
For players that have lost a tour card or entered Q school but failed to qualify, you have the PDC challenge tour.
Players competing in Q school will receive admission to PDPA which allows them to play in this tournament which is considered the second-tier tour for high level dart players that are not yet good enough to play on the full PDC tour.
4.5 Enter ADA
If you are based in America, there is a separate route you can take to join the pro circuit as the methods listed above are primarily used for UK and European players to turn pro.
The American Darts Association (ADA) Is a route for American players to play darts professionally, however, this has no link to the PDC. The ADA requires a $20 annual membership fee and a requirement to play 30 games while maintaining a 17.5 dart average.
In terms of the PDC circuit though where the greater prize money and earning potential lies, there are very few Americans that are ranked which shows there is not the same level of transition from the ADA to the PDC which used to exist in the UK from the BDO to the PDC.
Do Professional Dart Players Make Money
One of the key reasons why many players want to become professional in the modern game is because the growth in popularity also means that there is more money in the sport. TV deals and sponsorship have meant that darts is a very lucrative career for aspiring players and many professional players can earn a good living.
Professional dart players on average earn £43,213 however, the top 10 players significantly skew this figure due to their much higher earning potential. When factoring in the professional players rank 11 onward, the average salary is £28,406 which is actually below the UK average salary.
Therefore, there is definitely high earning potential in darts with top players earning over £1m per year, however, the money is primarily earned by the top ranking players who win major tournaments. To make a decent living as a professional dart player, you’ll need to win major tournaments, earn sponsorship deals, and even attend exhibition events to maximize your earnings.
Also keep in mind that there are expenses involved around competing in the PDC such as equipment, travel, and accommodation. Sponsorship will usually cover these aspects but if you are yet to gain a sponsor, you’ll need to face the expenses!
How Long Does It Take To Become a Professional Dart Player
For most players committing to darts, it will take anywhere from 1-3 years to reach a standard good enough to compete in Q School. This will vary for everyone and will be based on a number of factors so there’s no specific answer to this.
A year would be considered a minimum expectation though. A good example of this is the “Darts Referee” from YouTube, a former professional darts referee and relatively good dart player. He’s set out to compete at 2022 Q school and gave himself 1 year to practice, you can follow his video series and journey below:
While 1-3 years can be used as a good baseline, the great news is that unlike in other sports, there is a very limited barrier to entry in terms of age. Players still compete well into their 50s so making the decision to try and become a professional dart player is one that affords you plenty of time to persevere and improve over time.
Key Considerations to Becoming a Professional Dart Player
As above, the route to becoming a professional dart player is not necessarily straightforward and there are some key considerations that aspiring players need to be aware of before attempting to become a pro.
Firstly, the length of time is not short. People think that darts is an easy sport to get into but the skill gap for professional players and everyone else is significant. That’s because it takes thousands of practice hours and competitions just to hone the basic accuracy and consistency needed to compete at a professional level.
Players are now coming through the JDC league at youth level with incredible averages and playing standards. The skill for all players is rising each year making the barrier to entry so much more difficult for aspiring players.
You can’t play in a local league, practice for an hour each week and expect to get the ability required to play at the elite level.
Places are also limited – there are only 128 places on the PDC circuit and this means that in order to compete, you need to be good enough to rank within one of these limited positions. It’s not enough to get to a certain dart average and assume you’ll instantly get a place because talent is improving at a rapid rate with fearless youth players coming through the ranks but positions not opening up to accommodate this.
The best example recently is a 14 year old hitting a nine darter, a feat that was only possible by the top ranked players in the past few decades is something that a youth player is now doing on televised tournaments!
Finally, we touched on this earlier but there is a degree of expense required to both attempt to compete at a professional level. Travel to tournaments, accommodation for these tournaments, entry fees, and cost of purchasing and maintaining dart equipment all combine to make it an expensive initial barrier to competing.
Even once you are a pro player, you’ll need to place highly in tournaments and secure sponsorship to reduce or eliminate the expenses incurred to play professional darts.
For aspiring dart players, learning what is required to become a professional dart player can be a major motivator. Fortunately, the route to pro has become incredibly streamlined over the years with a very straightforward qualification process.
What isn’t necessarily so straightforward is gaining the level of skill, consistency, and mental focus needed to actually make it to the PDC circuit.
To become a professional dart player, you’ll need to enter and compete in the PDC Q School. This is the qualifying tournament that grants players a PDC Tour Card and allows you to compete in major tournaments as a professional dart player.
This is the only route available if you want to compete in the PDC but for a £450 entry fee, it’s worth taking the opportunity for readers here….
If you’ve been through Q School and want to share your story get in touch, there’s 10,000 monthly readers who’d love to hear your story on either succeeding or failing to become a pro player through this route.