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Why do they start on 501 in darts and not 500?

When it comes to the game of darts, 501 is arguably the most well-known and widely played format worldwide. But have you ever wondered why the game starts at 501 points and not a round number like 500? In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history and mechanics of darts to uncover the fascinating reason behind this longstanding tradition.

A Brief History of Darts and the 501 Game

Darts has a long and storied history, with roots tracing back to medieval England. The modern game of darts, as we know it today, emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 501 format, in particular, gained popularity due to its combination of skill, strategy, and excitement, making it a staple in pubs and clubs around the world.

Why 501 and Not 500? The Double-Out Rule

The primary reason for starting at 501 points rather than 500 is the double-out rule. In 501, players must finish the game by hitting a double, meaning their final dart must land in the outer, narrow ring of a numbered segment to reduce their score to exactly zero. This adds an element of challenge and drama to the game, as players need to carefully strategize their throws to finish on a double.

Starting at an odd number like 501 ensures that players cannot win the game with an even number of throws without hitting a double. If the game began at 500, a player could theoretically finish the game with 25 throws, hitting 20 points (a single 20) in each throw, without ever needing to hit a double. By starting at 501, the game maintains the double-out rule, preserving the excitement and challenge associated with the sport.

The Impact of the 501 Format on Strategy and Gameplay

Starting at 501 points not only emphasizes the importance of the double-out rule, but it also has a significant impact on the strategies employed by players. In order to win a game of 501, players must not only score points efficiently but also carefully plan their final throws to set up a successful double-out.

Additionally, the 501 format encourages players to develop their skills in hitting high-scoring segments, such as the triple 20, as well as mastering various double and triple combinations for finishing the game. This combination of skill, strategy, and excitement makes 501 a captivating and enduring format in the world of darts.


The 501 points format has become synonymous with the game of darts, and the choice to start at 501 rather than 500 can be attributed to the double-out rule. This rule adds a layer of challenge and excitement to the game, influencing player strategies and promoting the development of crucial skills. So the next time you step up to the oche, you’ll know the fascinating history behind why you’re starting at 501 and not 500!

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