Darts betting has become increasingly popular over the last decade and is now established as an exciting sport to bet on with tournaments running throughout the year. So how do darts matches work, what darts markets and competitions are available to bet on and how can you identify value in darts odds? We’ve covered it all in our guide to how to bet on darts.
How do darts matches work?
In most professional darts matches, two players take it in turns to throw three darts at a dartboard in order to score points.
The dartboard is divided into 20 radial sections which represent points from one to 20, and two ‘rings’ which double or triple the points scored if the dart lands in there. In the middle of the dartboard is the bullseye, comprised of the inner bullseye worth 50 points and outer bullseye worth 25.
Darts tournaments predominantly follow one of two common formats: legs-based and sets-based.
The vast majority of professional darts tournaments use the 501 scoring system. Players compete against each other to lower their score from 501 to zero, often being required to finish on a double. The first player to do so wins the ‘leg’ being contested.
Darts tournaments predominantly follow one of two formats: legs-based and sets-based. In legs-based competitions, matches are to the best of a specified number of legs (for instance, if a match is over the best of five legs, the first player to win three is victorious).
In sets-based competitions, players are required to win a certain number of legs (often three) to take a set, and then win the best of the specified number of sets to win the match.
Certain tournaments have further stipulations for the requirements to win a match, such as needing to win by two clear legs or sets, or having to win the deciding set by two clear legs should the match reach it.
Darts betting markets
There are several markets in darts available to bettors:
Money Line: This is a straightforward bet on which player you think will win the match.
Outright: This is a bet on which player you think will win a certain darts tournament or competition.
Leg/Set Handicap: In Leg or Set Handicap betting, one player has a stipulated number of legs or sets added or subtracted from their final score to determine the outcome of the bet.
For instance, if you bet on Michael van Gerwen to win a match with a -2.5 Leg Handicap, he would need to win the match by at least three legs for a successful bet. Therefore, a 10-7 victory for van Gerwen would win the bet, but a 9-8 victory for him would lose the bet.
Leg/Set Over/Under: This involves betting on whether a player will win over or under a certain number of legs or sets in a match. For example, if you bet on Peter Wright to win Over 4.5 legs in a match, if he wins five legs or more the bet is successful, whereas if he wins four legs or fewer the best is lost.
With darts Handicap and Over/Under betting the player you bet on is not required to win the match for the bet to be successful, they simply need to achieve the parameters set by the bet.
Live betting and more: Increasingly, it is possible to bet on a darts match as it is happening, such as on who will win the leg or set currently being played.
Other components of the match are occasionally available to bet on, such as the number of 180s (a turn of three darts that all attain the maximum triple 20 score), whether either player will achieve a nine-dart finish (a 501 score with their opening nine darts) and how many legs or sets the match will actually last for.
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Analysing darts odds and identifying value
Naturally, a vital element of darts betting is ascertaining the likelihood of player winning a match and thus whether they have been over or undervalued by the betting market.
The PDC Order of Merit can give an indication as to who are the strongest players in the field entering a tournament.
In most darts tournaments, the players are ranked and/or seeded beforehand according to their current placing in the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) Order of Merit. This is the equivalent of world rankings for darts, and ranks players according to the prize money they have accumulated during the last two years.
Therefore, it can give an immediate indication as to who are the strongest players amongst the field entering a tournament and thus likely to reach the latter stages, particularly considering those higher up the rankings are often rewarded with easier draws in the early rounds.
As per other sports, there are limitations to primarily relying on pre-determined rankings to establish favourites. A two-year time span may struggle to portray recent form, and the wildly varying prize money for different tournaments is capable of skewing the rankings.
For instance, at present the champion of the PDC World Darts Championship gets £500,000, whereas the prizes for winning Premier League Darts and the Masters, which feature a higher average standard of opponent, are £250,000 and £60,000 respectively.
A shorter-term and generally reliable measure of a player’s form is their three-dart average. This is literally a player’s average score from three darts thrown, and can thus provide an insight into a player’s performance over a period of time irrespective of their opponents, tournaments and whether they even won the matches being played.
Somebody who regularly achieves high three-dart finishes will struggle to win any match if they are incapable of finishing.
Suitably, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright, the two finalists at the 2020 PDC World Darts Championship, amassed the highest three-dart averages in the three months leading up to the tournament.
However, there are factors that can inflate a player’s three-dart average. A player who wins a leg by ten or 11 darts instead of 12 will have their average for that leg boosted by 20% and 9% respectively. Equally, a player who is being defeated briskly in legs before they have even had the chance to attempt a double will have their average rescued by the avoidance of such shots, which traditionally drag it down.
You should also bear in mind that somebody who regularly achieves high three-dart finishes will struggle to win any match if they are incapable of finishing. It is equally important to analyse a player’s checkout percentage – essentially, how often they achieve the score required to win a leg when they have the opportunity to do so.
Whilst a player can post fluctuating numbers on this front from match to match, consistently low figures somewhat suggests that they are susceptible to missing pressure shots and allowing their opponents to catch up within a leg when they should be capitalising on leads.
Conversely, a player with regularly high checkout percentages could be somebody capable of ramping up the pressure on opponents, especially one expected to win who then proceeds to underperform on the night.
Recognising good value in darts odds requires hard work.
Lastly, the length of a darts match can impact its outcome. Longer matches support the favourite, as there is a larger number of legs or sets available to settle into their game and catch up should they fall behind. On the other hand, shorter matches suit the underdog and produce more upsets.
For example, a match may begin with the lesser-favoured player breaking their opponent’s throw in the first leg before winning the next with their own throw to establish a 2-0 lead.
In a best of seven match this leaves their opponent needing to win four of the remaining five legs, including at least one against their throw, to win the match. In a best of 17 match, the lead is considerably less significant.
Obviously, recognising good value in darts odds requires some hard work. Learning to utilise these stats and considerations to your advantage may involve trial and error, but it will ultimately assist you in evaluating players for yourself, and thereby enable you to potentially identify things that the betting markets might have missed.
Major darts tournaments
The most high-profile darts tournament is the PDC World Darts Championship, which is hosted at the Alexandra Palace in London between mid-December and early January. This comprises the top 32 players in the PDC Order of Merit, the next 32 highest-ranked players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit and 32 international qualifiers from around the world.
The Masters is a knock-out bracket between the top 16 in the PDC Order of Merit.
It follows a sets format with the matches increasing in length as the tournament progresses, traditionally starting with the best of five in the first round, up to best of 13 in the final.
In January there is also the BDO World Darts Championship, which predominantly features players further down the rankings attempting to break into the PDC circuit. Unlike the PDC equivalent, this involves separate tournaments for men and women, but it also follows an increasing sets format, growing from five to 13 for the men and three to five for the women.
Shortly after is the Masters, which is a knock-out bracket between the top 16 in the PDC Order of Merit. This year the semi-finals and final were over the best of 21 legs.
Between February and May is Premier League Darts. This features the top four players on the Order of Merit and five selected ‘wildcards’ who compete in a legs-based round-robin tournament, with the tenth slot for each round of fixtures taken by an invited ‘challenger’. The top four players from the ‘group stage’ progress to the semi-finals, with the final contested on the same night.
The World Grand Prix contains a rule that competitors are required to both open and finish on a double.
During this time is the UK Open in March. This tournament is often referred to as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ due to the fact that it abolishes seedings and any player can be drawn against each other. It contains 160 players, including the top 128 from the PDC Order of Merit, and adopts a legs format with the number rising throughout the tournament.
The legs-based World Matchplay takes place in July, featuring the top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit and the next 16 highest ranked on the Pro Tour Order of Merit. The sets-based World Grand Prix in October features the same player line-up, but contains a notable rule that competitors are required to both open and finish on a double.
The Grand Slam of Darts in November combines players from the PDC and BDO, who are divided into eight groups of four with the top two from each progressing into a knock-out bracket. It is legs-based, and started with the best of nine in the group stage before increasing until the best of 31 in the final in 2019.