How to Play 501 Darts (A Guide to Help You Start Playing Right Away)

How to Play 501 Darts (A Guide to Help You Start Playing Right Away)

9 minutes read
Oct 23rd, 2023

If you are new to darts and don’t know where to start, learn how to play 501 darts. It is the most basic and popular darts game for both entertainment and professional competitions.

In this blog, we’ll show you how to play 501 darts as well as some tips to help you move forward to the winning point faster. So simple and easy that you can start practicing right after this and have a fun game with friends.



  • Introduction to 501 Darts
  • How to Play 501 Darts
  • Rule variations to 501 Darts
  • Tips on How to Play 501 Darts
  • Let’s Play

Introduction to 501 Darts

The main rules to play 501 darts are quite simple. Participating teams will have a total score of 501 points at the start. Each team (including at least 1 player) takes turns throwing darts at the dartboard to score points, 3 darts per turn. The points will then be deducted from the total points or the remaining points at the beginning of each turn. The team whose points go down to zero first wins the game. Easy right?

To make the game more fun and strategic, there are a few more rules. Particularly, you have to “double in” to start scoring points and “double out” to win the game. You also need to avoid a “bust”. Don’t worry if you don’t know these terms. They are very easy to understand. We’ll tell you in the next session about how to play 501 darts.

One more thing to note. A match of 501 darts may consist of several “legs”. A leg is basically one single game. A match normally has 3 or 5 legs. Whoever wins the majority of legs will win the match.

How to Play 501 Darts

Normally, you can toss a coin to determine which team goes first. Alternatively, each team throws a dart at the board; and the team that has the dart closest to the bullseye (the very central area of the dartboard) will go first.

For the throw line, the distance is 7 feet, 9 and ¼ inches (or 2.37 meters) away from the board if you’re playing with steel tip darts. If you’re playing with soft tip darts, you need to stand 8 feet (or 2.4384 meters) away.

Start Scoring by Doubling-in

As mentioned above, to start scoring points, you have to double in (doubling in). That means you have to hit a dart on a double section (or the double ring) on the dartboard. Before you double in, all the darts you throw at the board don’t give you any point.

If you don’t know the different scoring sections of a dashboard, please look at the image below. When you hit the double ring or the triple ring, you get double or triple the scoring points respectively. The outermost ring contains the numbers which are the scoring points. The outer bullseye is worth 25 points while the inner (sometimes called the double bullseye) rewards you with 50 points. The rest areas give you single points.


You can also hit the bullseye to start scoring since it’s considered a double-section as well. Once you double in, the points scored from that dart and the following ones will be deducted from the total 501 points.

The most ideal places to double in are the double 20 and the bullseye since they’re counted as 40 points and 50 points respectively.

In the context of playing in multiple-member teams, only one member is required to double in. The team’s scoring will then begin.

Get The Points Down

After doubling in, the next thing to do is to score as many points as possible. The more points you score, the quicker you reach zero and win a leg.

Without knowing the rules, many beginners think it would be best to aim for the bullseye. But it’s really the triple 20 that brings the highest points (60). The highest score you can get in a turn is 180, by hitting all 3 darts in the triple 20. This is called a “ton 80”.

However, it’s not always good to score 180 points or as many points as possible in a turn. The next section will help you understand this.

Win 501 Darts by Doubling-out

To win, you’ll need to reduce your point to exactly 0 by doubling out. It means you’ll need to reach 0 points by hitting a double-section on the board.

Getting your points below 0 will result in a “bust“. When this happens, the points scored in that turn won’t count and the turn ends immediately.

Let’s have an example. You have 64 remaining points, you have a chance to win this leg if you do it right. In this turn, you land the first dart on a single 18 and the second dart on a double 12. Your remaining points drop down to 22 (64 – 18 – 24= 22). You would need to hit the double 11 (doubling out), to get your points down to 0 and win.

Unfortunately, you actually land the third dart on a double 12 again. Your remaining points are now -2, below 0. Your turn ends, all the scored points in this turn don’t count, and your remaining points return to 64.

Check your Darts Averages with our Darts Average Calculator Tool

Rule variations to 501 Darts

There are many rule variations that can be added to the basic 501 darts, depending on what the players agree upon. Then, “how to play 501 darts” will change accordingly.

For example, in some competitions, there’s no rule for doubling in. This helps reduce the game time in one leg. Some beginners, when just starting to practice or playing for fun, may agree to exclude the rule of doubling out. They can win a leg by hitting a single section on the dartboard. It’s a good habit to ask if there’s any rule variation before starting to play.

Tips on How to Play 501 Darts

For beginner:

1. Learn the different scoring sections on the dartboard

2. Practice your aim by throwing darts at a practice board or even a dart simulator.

> Learn more: Tips on how to Improve Your Darts Aim

3. Start by doubling in to score points

4. Aim for higher scoring areas like the triple 20 and triple 19

5. Try to avoid busting (losing all your points in one turn as a result)

6. If you can’t reach 0 points, try to get as close as possible

7. Have fun and be consistent

For intermediate players

1. Improve your aim by throwing at a smaller target or further away

2. Vary your throws by going for different scoring areas

3. When doubling in, aim for double 20 or bullseye

4. Try to get a 180 score as often as possible

5. When you’re close to 0 points, try to calculate and double out

6. Have fun and practice consistently

For advanced players

1. Calculate your points and set up to double out

2. Learn and apply different strategies

3. Learn different kinds of darts equipment

4. Play darts with other experienced players

5. Stay calm and don’t get frustrated if you miss a shot

6. Learn to focus on your game and don’t get distracted

7. Practice consistently and don’t forget to have fun

Let’s Play

Now that you know how to play 501 darts, it’s time to put your skills to the test. The rules and tips we’ve shared in this article should give you a good head start. Remember to have fun and be consistent while playing. With enough practice, you’ll be hitting bullseyes, or even ton-80s, in no time!

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