Attack of the Darts-Everything You Wanted to Know About Darts But Were Afraid to Ask


For more darts check out my other Newsvine darts post here

For more darts check out my other Newsvine darts post here

For the average pub-shooter a game of darts is a temporary diversion from the hustle of the main game going on at the local meet-market, but for Rick Smith firing needles at the bull and hitting the triple 20 with a vengeance is serious business. At the competitive level, darts is an amped-up chess match where thinking ahead is a must for mere survival and strategy shifts gears with every shot. If Kenny Rogers wrote a darts song it may go something like this: “You got to know how to throw’em, know how to aim’em, know how to recover when your shot misses its mark. You got to count your score in a fraction of a second, there’s no point in countin’ when your turn is done.” With a mathematical mind and an aptitude for hand-eye heavy sports like billiards and bowling, Brampton Ontario's Rick ‘Hawkeye’ Smith was born to dart.

Have you ever done a Robin Hood and split a dart right down the middle?

Yeah, it happens all the time. It’s the most common way that you wreck your shafts which is why I carry spares.

So how do you stay cool in the heat of competition?

That’s one of the biggest challenges. I just don’t pay attention to what the other guys are scoring. I also use deep breathing techniques. It’s not a physical game, its not like I have to stretch to prepare, but relaxation is very important. Muscle tension is a killer in a game of skill.

How did you get hooked on darts?
I started off playing in a friend’s basement. After a couple years people started coming over to play and I would beat them. What I enjoy about darts is that it is a tactical game and that’s how I can play even above my skill set. I’ve played with guys that are just winging it, they’re just firing arrows and they can hit them but when you get down near the end of the game and you need to double out (the dart player must hit a double number on the outer ring to finish with zero points), mathematical strategies become important and that’s where I can make up for any lack of skill.

So how important is the counting aspect of the game?
Until you get to 170 it doesn’t matter. You are just going for big numbers so just keep shooting at the triple 20, but once you get to 170 this is the point where you can finish the game on three darts so then you have to start counting because there are several key numbers that can’t be taken out with three darts and you don’t want to leave yourself on one of those numbers. You have to know what combination of numbers to hit and if you miss and hit a stray number, you have to know what your next recovery move is.

Can you stall between shots and figure out what you have to do, or is there a time limit?
There is a time limit but I have never heard of anybody being called on it. It’s an ego thing, you don’t want to stand there for five minutes scratching your head. When you are concentrating and are in the groove you have to know exactly what you are shooting for. If you have to stop, pause, think, or do some math, it will break your concentration. So it’s a huge advantage to know what you have to hit next without thinking.

Do you visualize your dart hitting the target before even throwing them?
Absolutely. If you are standing there thinking “Oh my God, I’m going to miss. I’m going to hit the one,” nine times out of ten you are going to hit the one.

Maybe you should write Zen and the Art of Darts. Is mental agility more important than marksmanship then?
Darts is a unique game. It is one of the few games where even though you have an opponent you are essentially playing against yourself. In pool the kind of shot your opponent leaves you changes the game, but in darts the board starts blank every time. Sure your opponent has a score and he is playing against you but he has no influence over your turn.

But doesn’t his score subconsciously frazzle your nerves?
This is why you asked about how mental a game darts is and it is very much so. As long as your opponent is above 170 you don’t even care what his score is, it’s only when he gets close enough to finish when you think about taking risks.

The late Jim Pike, a darts legend in England, was such an amazing marksman that he could shoot a cigarette from someone’s mouth with a dart and stick it in any double. Can you do any tricks like that?
Hey, if you’re willing to put a cigarette in your mouth, I’ll give it a try.

This article has never been published

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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