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How to Play Gotcha Darts | Fun & Fast Paced Game

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Darts is a highly competitive game of precision, accuracy and skill. This is especially true when it comes to the more traditional games like 501 and 301 however, there is a game that blends the heavy scoring aspect of 501 with a more fun and fast paced aspect for players of all skill levels. 

Gotcha is the darts equivalent of tag (remember that childhood playground game when you would chase someone in an attempt to tag them?). in gotcha darts you essentially race each other to a target number with the added twist of being able to tag the player in a concept known as ‘killer’ which we’ll cover in this article. 

Gotcha darts is a fast paced game that can be used by players of all ability levels and is even a game which a high level of player can use in order to vary their throw to become a high scorer from a number of options and not solely relying on hitting aiming for a 180 every throw. 

If you want a quick overview of the gotcha darts game then check out this brief outline below, otherwise read on and I’ll give you the full rundown on gotcha darts as well as a few strategies you can use to stay ahead. 

How to play gotcha darts? To play gotcha darts you need to set a specific target number (301 for example) and players take turns scoring until they hit the target number. Select a smaller number for a quicker game as you need to hit the exact target number to win the game so 301 in this example. If you bust and get 302 or higher, then your score reverts back to your previous score.

What Is the Gotcha Game

Gotcha darts is a fun and fast paced game that involves players needing to reach a predetermined target number. The most common targets are 301 and 501 as they replicate the traditional games so have more carry over for practise purposes. 

Gotcha is played on a traditional board and can be for 2 or more players, for the purpose of this article however I’ll explain the game as though 2 people are playing.

The gotcha game involves players taking turns to score the highest score they can with 3 darts in a race to get to the 301 (or predetermined target number) first. In a traditional game you subtract your score from 301 in a descending order however with gotcha darts you add up your 3 dart score each turn in a race to get to 301. 

Therefore if you score 80 on your first throw and 50 on your second throw then your running score will be 130. Players continue to score until they reach the target number and you need to finish exactly on 301 (or the predetermined number) in order to win. 

This sounds simple enough and the concept is quite simple and straightforward however it’s the additional twists that make gotcha such a fun and challenging game…

How to Play Gotcha Darts 

Gotcha is a very simple darts game which is what makes it great for beginners or larger groups. There is no limit on how many people can play and the game lengths can be adjusted depending on how high or low you set the target number. 

It’s a faced paced game with the sole intention of scoring as many points as you can with every 3 dart throw and therefore, even if you are a player that isn’t very accurate you can still take part and enjoy the game. 

To start with, the aim of the game is to select a target number. Lets say your target number is 301, to win the game you need to score this number exactly. If for example after a number of turns you find yourself with a total score of 300 then you need to score 1 in order to win the game. 

301 was just an example number, you could choose 101 as a beginner or 1001 as an advanced level player or group, the higher the number the longer the game will last in theory. If you are new to the game of darts then I’ll give a brief example of what a game of gotcha could look like below:

Target score – 201

Player 1

Throw 1 – 45 scored (45 total)

Throw 2 – 45 scored (90 total)

Throw 3 – 60 scored (150 total)

Throw 4 – 22 scored (172 total)

Throw 5 – 22 scored (194 total)

Throw 6 – 5 scored (201 target hit)

As you can see your total score adds up each round until you reach the game’s target number. That example is for a beginner who can get a few consistent throws but doesn’t have the capability to hit a treble or group their darts yet so a score of 201 gives an average length game. 

A more seasoned player would get the 201 score in 2-3 throws with a few 100+ scores and therefore you’d up the target number to account for your personal and groups throwing capabilities. 

How Do You Win at Gotcha Darts

To win a gotcha darts is a very simple concept as mentioned above, the first one to reach the target score wins. While it is simple and doesn’t sound like a great game when you consider that you are just racing to a number the real excitement of the game comes when there are 2 or more players. 

The reason for this is that you have a few additional rules in gotcha that mean you can slow down your opponents progress or that will cause you to hinder your own progress. 

Killing in Gotcha Darts

‘Killing’ in gotcha darts is a concept that means you can reset your opponent’s score and send them back to zero. This is easier at the start of the game and I’ll explain why shortly but first I’ll give a basic example of how you can kill or be killed in gotcha.

Target score – 301

Player 1

1st throw – 45 scored (45 total)

2nd throw – 45 scored (90 total)

Player 2 

1st throw – 50 scored (50 total)

2nd throw – 90 scored (140 total)

Now because player 2 has hit player 1s total score (90) with his throw player 1s total score is now reset to zero and they need to start again essentially giving player 2 a huge lead to go on and  try to win the game with. 

Killing is one of the best ways to get ahead if you are not a great scorer however if you set a high target number then once a player goes past 180 then you won’t be able to catch them as this is the maximum score you can get with 3 darts.

Now that you know how to kill a player I’ll give you some tips and strategies that you can use to your advantage a bit later on.

Busting in Gotcha Darts

As mentioned earlier, the key to winning a game of gotcha is to get the exact score that you set as a target number. 

Therefore if you have a target of 301 and a current total score of 281 then you need to score 20 in order to win. You can hit the number 20, you can get a 15 and a 5 or any other combination that gives you a score of 20 and gives you a total score of 301. 

If however you aim to score 20 but hit the treble 20 by accident scoring 60 points then this will bring your total score to 341 and you will bust. Busting in gotcha resets your score to the previous total before that throw meaning on your next throw you will be on 281 again. 

Busting essentially means that your score goes over the set target number. Using another example if you have a score of 161, have a target number of 301 but score a 180 on your throw (giving you a total score of 341) then you will bust and need to start at 161 again on your next throw. 

Busting can be frustrating in scenarios like this or in general, especially if you bust with your first dart meaning that you lose your other 2 darts and need to wait for your next throw to try again, in which time your opponent(s) have a chance to check out and win the game. 

Busting is much more likely with beginner players which is why I’d suggest starting with a lower target number, especially if you are a player(s) that are not high scoring and take a long time getting close to the target number.

Strategies for Gotcha Darts

While gotcha is a simple darts game it’s still a game that ultimately has a winner and while it’s a fun game there are those of you that will still be competitive and want to win. 

Therefore I’m going to give you some strategies that you can use in order to give you a slight edge, in darts you can win or lose a game on the smallest of margins (1 missed dart or a dart falling into the wrong bed) and therefore every little strategy that you can use will help you to win. 

I’ve split this into two categories, the front runner and the chaser which should be self explanatory. 

The Front Runner

As the front runner you will throw first (decided by a toss of a coin or by having each player throw a single dart at the bullseye and closest to the bull starts) and therefore have a head start on the other players. 

As a front runner it’s essential that you start out with a large score in order to make it more difficult to be killed early on. A 100+ score will be difficult for players to replicate however my main recommendation would be to mix up your choice of number. 

If you throw for the 20 with all 3 darts and score 60 then this is much easier for your opponent to then follow and score 60 to reset your score. If however you have a good level of accuracy then I’d highly advise going for odd numbered trebles like the 17 and 19 in order to make it more difficult for you opponent to match your score early on. 

A score of 100 going for the 20s is good but if instead you scored 97 then your opponent would need to switch away from the 20s if they wanted to kill you and a lot of players are simply not comfortable at switching numbers during a throw. 

This is even true of more beginner level players, if you throw 2 x 20s and then a 19 your opponent is much less likely to hit this and kill you than if you score a 60 and have allowed your opponent the rhythm of aiming and throwing at the same spot. 

As the front runner you also need to be more cautious of busting and allowing your opponent an opportunity to beat you from behind. 

To do this you should calculate your opponents potential shot and work out whether they are likely to finish. If you need 80 to win but your opponent needs 139 then rather than busting on this going by hitting an accidental treble it might be best to score 40-60 on this throw and then leave yourself only needing to score 20 on the follow up. 

To do this you need to be aware of your opponents skill level, if your opponent is very capable of hitting 2 x treble 20s and a 19 in a single throw then you should look to take the risk and take out the 80 score in a single throw yourself. 

This seems like a simple tactic but it’s important to play the percentages, you might hear professional players say to play the board and not your opponent meaning you should only focus on your own throw but as non professionals playing a game for fun you should definitely look to weigh up your best chance of winning by using all the information available to you. 

The Chaser

As the chaser you should be very receptive to player 1s score initially, this is because if your opponent scores 10 you won’t gain much ground by killing them and should therefore focus on making a high score to put yourself in the front runner position. 

If however they put up a mid – high range score that includes a treble then you should definitely look to kill them and take their position. This is especially true when your opponent has a score of 100 – 180 as this would then be difficult for them to repeat and kill you on their next throw to reset your score.

Next up as the chaser you will need to take the risk for a higher check out and risk busting because your opponent will be in an advantageous position being closer to their target number for their next throw. 

I said as a front runner you should factor in an opponent’s level of skill and current score total when looking to finish but as a chaser you should assume that your opponent will finish on their next throw if you don’t hit the target number on your throw. 

This is because they will be statistically closer to the number making it theoretically easier to hit and even a beginner player can ‘fluke’ a few numbers and catch you off guard. Therefore when chasing you need to be trying to hit the target number even if you risk busting and resetting to your last score. 


Gotcha darts is a straightforward game but one that can be played by all skill levels and the fact that you can adjust the target number to make a game quicker or long makes it a great pick up game just for a bit of fun. 

I wouldn’t recommend gotcha as a practice game though so it’s worth keeping in mind to have this as purely a fun game that will allow you to focus on the scoring aspect of darts which will of course have some good carryover to the practice and game board!

If you are looking for more practice games then you can also check out:
How to play around the clock darts
How to play Shanghai darts
How to play killer darts

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