301/501 Darts Rules - How to Play

301/501 dart Rules

In the world of dart games, 301 is perhaps the most widely known. It is the first game that comes to mind for most people when they are asked if they want to 'play a round of darts'. The rules of the game are simple and require nothing more than darts and a board.

In addition to 301, there is 501. 501 is a very similar game with a few key differences. For that matter, all the 01 games are more or less based on the rules 301. The game of 801 darts is also played similarly.

While some aspects of a dart board can be rather confusing for the uninitiated, it will become easier as you play. The most confusing part of 301 will be keeping score, and planning your next shot. For that purpose, we have included a 301 and 501 dart out chart for you to follow along with to make things simpler during your first few matches.

No matter whether you play 301, 501, or 801, you need to be quick with your math. This is one of the definite benefits of playing darts - intentionally or unintentionally, you will get better with your arithmetic.

With that said, let's dive in and explore some of the finer details of the wonderful games of 301/501 Darts.

301 Darts Rules Summary

301 is typically played by two players, or in two teams. The game begins with each player/team having 301 points. The object is a 'race to the bottom' as you try to reach zero points before your opponent. You do this by deducting the points scored when your darts hit the scoring areas. Each player/team will have three darts, and three chances to hit per turn.

As the game progresses, scored points are deducted from the player/team's total until zero is achieved.

Seems simple, right? Well, there is a bit more to it than that. Let's keep going.

What you'll Need to Play:

  • Any standard dart board (bristle or electronic)
  • Darts - at least three
  • Scoreboard or a sheet of paper and a pen

Common Terms

>> Bulls Eye

The center circle of the dart board. The red in the middle is the 'inner-bullseye'; the green outer circle is the 'outer-bullseye'. The outer-bullseye is worth 25 points, the inner-bullseye counts as a 'double' and is worth 50.

>> Bust

When a player 'overshoots' their points be scoring more than their points remained. This is called a 'bust' and resets that player/team to the points they had to start the turn.

>> Leg

A 'leg' is a term used for a match played in a set. In some official tournaments, a winner is determined by the best-of score out of a predetermined amount of 'legs'.

>> Out chart

An 'out chart' is a handy cheat sheet to help you plan your next shot if you are a beginner. It will tell you where to aim, depending on where you are score-wise.

>> Rings

The rings on the dart board are used to determine scoring. The outermost ring is called a 'double', the black and white spaces are known as a 'single', the middle ring is a 'triple'.

These terms denote the value of points when stuck in these areas on their corresponding number.

Example: A hit on the 'triple' spot in the 3 column is worth 9 points, etc.

Now that we have the basic terminology established, let’s talk about how to play 301 darts.

How to Play 301 Darts

301 Darts Game Flow

301 Darts Game Flow

When the game begins, each player/team will have 301 points. To start, you can either flip a coin or shoot for bulls-eye. The one closest to the bulls-eye will get the first turn. If both hits are equidistant, throw again in the same order.

Once the starting player/team has been determined, the first player/team will have 3 darts to throw on their turn. In order for your hits to begin counting towards your score, you must hit a double; this is called a 'double-in'. Until a double is hit, no points hit will count.

The score of each leg is subtracted from 301.

For example, if you hit triple 20, triple 20, and an inner bulls-eye, your total points will be 60+60+50 = 170.

So, now your net score will be 301-170 = 131. You need to reduce this sum (131) further to zero to win the inning.

Each player/team will take turns in this way until the first player/team hits zero. To score the winning hit, you must score the total of your remaining points exactly. If you go over, this is a bust. If this happens, your score is reset to the value it was at when your turn started.

In some official settings, you must also score your final hit on a double for it to count. This is called a 'double-out.' However, in many bar settings, this rule will not necessarily be followed.

Additional Rules

A foul is committed when a player steps over the throwing line, or 'busts'. Both will result in the forfeiture of the turn. Whereas a 'bust'’ will revert the player back to their point total at the beginning of the turn, stepping over the throwing line will result in no points from that turn being counted at all and the turn ending immediately.

Tip: You can use a dart mat to clearly mark the oche distance and avoid overstepping.

If you are playing in teams, the game will end when one player reaches zero. Only one player is required to reach zero for the whole game to come to an end. The remaining players above zero will then have their total remaining points added to the 'team' total. The team with the fewest points will be declared the winners.

501 Darts Rules - Differences

The rules of 501 are very nearly identical to 301. The only major exception being that you do not have to 'double-in' to begin scoring. Any single, double, or triple will begin deducting points from your total from the first hit. In most official settings, you will still have to 'double-out' in order to win.

In many bars and pubs, you might see the 'bar rules' as having 'any-in/any-out.' This is typically only used in 501, and is a way to keep the games quicker. This means that any hit is allowed to begin the game, and any hit to finish will win as long as you still finish the game by scoring the exact needed points without busting.

Aside from these small differences, the games are identical in every way, with the exception of beginning points allotted. You will even find individuals often playing 801, which again is the exact same game as 501, except with more points used to begin the game.

Ultimately the number of beginning points rarely changes the way the game is played, other than the length of the game overall.

301/501 Dart Out Chart

The game of 301/501 always ends with a double. So, you need to plan your moves accordingly such that you hit a double of a number to reduce your score ZERO.

And there is no single way to finish a game. A right-handed player might like hitting the top part of the board, whereas a left-handed one may like hitting the bottom section. So, in the end, it comes down to your preference.

But if you're a beginner or starting out and math is not your thing, a dart out chart will come handy. It is basically a sheet with a combination of points you should exactly score to WIN the game.

You can find the dart out chart for your reference. The chart is the same for 301, 501 or 801 game. Please free to download the chart and keep it handy for next dart night!

301/501 dart out chart

Common Strategies

One great strategy for beginners is to try to aim for large scores right out of the gate. This will get you an early lead and allow you to relax a bit down the stretch. Bear in mind that the 'double' bulls-eye is not the highest value on the board at 50 points. The 'triple' 20 is worth 60.

Utilizing an 'out chart' will not only help you learn basic and easy strategies, but it will also save you time from having to do quick math in your head. This will also reduce any risks of miscounting and miss-scoring.

Plan ahead to how you can achieve the final score. Rounding down before each throw will give you a great idea of how to achieve your ultimate goal. Although throwing blindly may seem like a fun strategy at the beginning, it will turn around and bite you with busts and misses.

Summing it up

301/501 is a highly sophisticated and strategic game. You will have to keep very close track of where your score is, and what your throwing tendencies are, as to avoid hitting a 'bust'. Overall, practice is your best friend! The best way to get good at 301/501, is to simply throw as many darts as you can stand, and then throw some more!

With all of that practice, some patience, trial and error, and a helpful out chart, you too can be a 301 master!

Other darts games you can try: Cricket Darts, Baseball Darts.

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