NO MATCHES TODAY
Darts may be a niche sport in comparison to the likes of football, horse racing or tennis, but its fans are among some of the most enthusiastic in the world. Indeed, despite shaking off the lager lout, pub game image that clung to it for many years, professional darts is now as much of an evening out as a sport.
Around the world fans of the game will now congregate around tables dressed in outlandish customs, drink some beer and celebrate as the world's greater players do battle on the oche. In fact, it's this blend of audience participation and immense talent from the players that's allowed darts to become one of the fastest growing sports in recent times.
The History of Darts
The exact origins of darts as a sport are unclear given how it came into being. Throughout history the dart as an implement was traditionally used as a weapon and in the pursuit of excellence, users gradually started playing games with these darts.
Aiming at targets on trees and boards, users would continually play against each other in a bid to improve their aim and accuracy. Gradually these impromptu competitions became more formal thanks to the invention of the dartboard and before the First World War it became a common game in pubs across the UK.
Made from solid wood and a mixture of bristles, darts boards were quickly standardised and that allowed various games to take shape. The most popular game soon became 501, a game during which players have to score points and knock their totals down – from a starting score of 501 -before finishing on a double. Although there are variants of the game on display in pubs and clubs around the world today, the 501 format is the one that eventually made it into the mainstream as an official sport.
Professional Darts: A Difference of Opinions
Darts and its various formats are common around the world and wherever you play the rule set governing a single game will always be the same; however, due to various political rifts within the industry in years gone by, the professional side of the game is now divided into two organisations: the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and the British Darts Organisation (BDO).
Although there are a number of emerging organisations in the darts world, the PDC and BDO are the main players and professionals have to decide which they wish to compete under. Of the two leagues the latter is the oldest with a heritage that stretches back to 1973. For years this governing body was "the" place for professionals to ply their trade.
However, in 1992 some of the BDO's leading players broke away from the organisation and formed the PDC. The players behind the PDC subsequently appointed Barry Hearn as Chairman and from this base it managed to find a home on Sky Sports. Since this time the two organisations have competed for dominance, but in recent years the world's best darts players have gravitated towards the PDC.
Major Darts Championships
Because of the division in the darts world, there are two World Championship events each year and these run alongside a slew of regional tournaments; many of which are organised by the PDC.
The PDC World Championship: Traditionally taking place in December each year, the PDC's World Championship is now the largest tournament in the darts world both in terms of viewing figures and prize money. Moreover, despite being a descendant of the BDO's event, the PDC World Championship often produces a higher standard of darts and that's translated into great TV spectacles and a prizepool worth £1.5 million.
The BDO World Championship: Despite being the original World Championship event, the BDO's flagship tournament has since been overtaken in terms of popularity and prestige by the PDC's event. However, despite being usurped, the BDO World Championship still attracts hundreds of competitors to the famous Lakeside Country Club each year. Through a combination of qualification and seeding a handful of players compete for the lion's share of a £300,000 prizepool in January every year.
World Matchplay: Another event organised by the PDC, the World Matchplay is an annual tournament held inside Blackpool's Winter Gardens and features the elite throwers of the darts world. Established in 1994, the tournament now boasts a £450,000 prizepool and since its inception the format has always expected players to win by two clear legs in order to progress through to the next round.
The Las Vegas Desert Classic: One of the many international tournaments overseen by the PDC, the Las Vegas Desert Classic helped bring an element of glamour to the game that it previously lacked. Although darts isn't a huge sport in the US, the live events always drew huge grounds and it was this exposure that helped to put darts on the map. Although the tournament was brought to a close in 2009, it helped pave the way for many more international events such as the Dubai Darts Masters and the Sydney Darts Masters.
The Darts Premier League: Following the rise in popularity of darts, a league system was developed in 2005 and branded Premier League Darts. Featuring ten of the PDC's top ranked players, the league consists of round-robin matches that take place around the UK and Ireland between February and May. Adding another layer of excitement to the sport, Premier League Darts now has a total prizepool of £700,000 and offers high quality darts in a bite size format.
Leading Throwers of all Time
It's almost impossible to talk about darts without highlighting some of its best players. Although the sport itself is an engaging spectacle, the players and their personas are what really capture the public's imagination. Almost like pantomime heroes and villains on stage, the greatest darts players from the last few decades have been able to throw and entertain in equal measure.
Eric Bristow: The original poster boy of darts, Eric Bristow is considered one of the most naturally talented, moreover competitive, players to ever step up to the oche. Nicknamed the Crafty Cockney, Bristow first started playing darts in 1968 and during his career he won multiple titles in a variety of organisations, including the PDC of which he was a founding member.
Phil Taylor: Discovered by Bristow playing in his local pub, Phil Taylor has since gone on to become the greatest player in history. Still active today and employing the skills Bristow taught him as a novice back in the 1980s, Taylor now has career earnings of more than £6 million and has won more titles than any other competitor in the game.
Raymond van Barneveld: Active since 1984, The Raymond van Barneveld first shot to fame in the BDO where he won the World Championship four times between 1998 and 2005. However, it wasn't until the Dutchman crossed over to the PDC that he really showed his affinity for the game. Despite many feeling he would struggle against better opposition, van Barneveld has since won the World Championship, the Premier League, Desert Classic and the UK Open.
Betting on Darts
Like all sports that have made a mark on the mainstream, darts is now a major player in the sports betting world. Although the top matches might not court as much interest as football or tennis encounters, there is a strong number of punters and, therefore, betting opportunities online.
Indeed, when you log into an online sportsbook and navigate to the darts section you'll be greeted with a slew of options, from straight win bets to over/under bets on the number of 180s in a match. This variety, plus the relatively recent influx of interest in darts, means there's a lot of value out there in the darts betting world.
In comparison to established betting markets such as football, the odds in the darts world are a lot less defined and this creates small gaps into which you can crawl and extract some value. Naturally, to do this you need to be informed and the best way to do this is go online and read as much news as possible and, if available, check out the latest live streams.
Doing these things will allow you to find out which players are in form, the average number of points scored in a match and the most likely finishes. Once you've built up a bank of knowledge you can then go out into the betting arena and start making some money.