This is useful:

**Finishing**

There are basically three sections of numbers for all the finish combinations. These are determined by how many trebles it takes to hit the checkout. The first group of finishes is 170-131, and all these checkouts require two trebles to get to a double. The second group is 130- 91, all these finishes require you to hit at least one of your first two darts in a treble. And from 90 down you can get to a double finish without having to hit a treble. (There are a couple of exceptions, you can get to a double from 132 and 135 with only one treble if the first dart is a 25 or bull, and you can get to a finish from 91-95 without a treble if the first dart is a 25 or bull). The highest numbers in each of these three groups are your TARGET NUMBERS:

a) 170 b) 130 c) 90

Once you get into the 200's you should know, before you go to the oche, how many points are needed to get to 170. If you're on 229 you should be aware that 60 points will NOT put you on a finish, so if your first two darts only hit single 20's then throw the third dart at the treble 19. Both the treble 20 and treble 19 will leave you a three dart checkout on your next visit, but should you miss the treble and land in the single, only the single 19 will also leave you on a three dart finish. Notice how the single points the way to the correct treble. It is also important to commit to memory the numbers under 170 that can't be taken out even with three darts (159, 162, 163, 165, 166, 168, and 169). Make sure that when you're coming down from the 200's you do not leave yourself on any of these numbers!

You should always try to get as many points as you can until you are at a checkout, but while you are coming down try to make sure you at least get to the next target area. It will save you darts! The next target area starts with 130 and goes to 91. There are however a few numbers to avoid in this group: 129, 128 and 125. These three checkouts are a real pain in the arse, and here's why. Taking 129 first, our normal strategy tells us that the proper first dart is T19, for if you only hit a single you will still be on a two dart checkout 110. But if you manage to hit the T19 first, it only gets you to 72, (which means you can't get to the bull with one single should you miss the treble) so you will have to hit another treble to make the checkout. But then if you decided to scrap that plan and take T20 first, you'd end up below 70 if you make the treble, which gives you a bull safety net, but you'd be left with no other options on 109 with two darts left should you hit the single 20. So there are disadvantages for either way of finishing from 129, but you're best steering clear because it's a stinker that doesn't look too bad from a first glance. Without repeating the details, the same pretty much applies to 125 and 128.

This is a good time to discuss the two dart checkouts in this target group, commit these to memory: 100, 101, 104, 107 and 110. If you are any where in the 120's, throw your first dart at the treble where the single will leave you on one of these two dart checkouts, but never leave yourself on 99. Here is an example, a 126 checkout. Many beginners will throw for treble 20 on the first dart because its even, but if they miss and hit a single 20 then they are on 106 with no way to checkout on this turn. Three more darts for the other guy! The proper first dart is treble 19, if you hit it you're on 69 (below the crucial 70 mark), or if you miss you're on 107, whichever way both can be taken out with two darts. It is not important to remember every single way of checking out, just a few target numbers and making sure that you get the most out of a single should you miss a treble. This decision making process should come naturally after a while - work everything out while your opponent is throwing his darts and before you approach the oche. Try to keep your darts flowing, don't stop excessively for pauses to work things out. Be prepared for the options before they present themselves.

The final target of below 90 is probably the most important target of all, because from here you can get to a winning double without having to hit a treble. You should consider yourself safe at this point, because you know on this throw you should be able to have at least one dart to win the game. An important number in this group is 70, try to make sure (if you are at 90 or less) that your first dart brings you to 70 or less, as this is crucial in getting to a checkout without forcing yourself to hit a treble. For example if you are on 88, many players like T16 D20, but a single 16 will leave you on 72 forcing you to hit a treble with your second dart, and if you miss the other guy gets three more darts. The best way is T20, D14. If you miss the treble and catch a single 20, this will bring you to 68, where you can finish by throwing T18, D7. That's right T18, D7! This is because if you miss the second dart and catch a single 18 you still have a third dart to win at the bull. This is the way the pros use the whole board to squeeze out every possible opportunity. Learn to ignore the convenient maths (like the above 48+40=88) and start to remember target numbers, such as 170, 130, 90 and 70 instead. The rest will fall into place.

**Tactics**

There are two aspects in becoming a good dart player, they are accuracy and strategy.

Accuracy is your ability to hit a particular target. Strategy is the decision making process that one goes through to decide on what target to throw at. In any dart game accuracy is about 90% of winning, and 10% strategy.

Having good strategy can improve your accuracy in two ways. First is confidence; you might get a real confidence boost when you're up against a player that you can see doesn't know his checkouts or hesitates. Second, is rhythm. I have found that when players are throwing their best, it is when they have established a rhythm in their darts. The most common thing that will disrupt a player's rhythm is a lack of strategy; it is very hard to maintain a rhythm when you have to stop and add your score in the middle of your throw.

Isn't one of the most common excuses in darts, "I got down to a checkout, but I couldn't finish it"?

I’ll deal mainly with strategy but here are some helpful hints on accuracy. The best way to improve your accuracy is to practice, practice, and practice! When you practice, have a few routines where you can measure your progress. This will force you to improve and help your concentration.

For instance, when you practice at home or in your pub, try start by throwing 100 darts at the 20's and count how many you get. Score 3 for the trebles, 2 for the doubles and 1 for the singles. Every time I do this I am always trying to do one score better than the time before. The main point is not to set a specific target, the key is to be able to measure your progress and give an incentive to your practice. There's no point comparing notes with team-mates for this, the idea is to get yourself focused on delivering the dart. You may also want to count how many actually hit the treble 20, this will tell you what percentage of your darts are hitting trebles, and more importantly what percentage don't. This percentage will be important later in deciding strategy.

Another form of practice that is largely overlooked is warming up. Having a specific warm-up routine will help your confidence. A repetetive routine is a key to good accuracy. For instance when warming up why not try throw at every double on the board until you hit it? That way you know later in the day in a match you won't find yourself on a number that you have not already taken out - you CAN make the double, you've proved yourself to have done so already. If you want to take it to the next level, throw at every double and do not move onto the next until you hit 2 out of 3 darts in each double!

501 is a race, i.e. the player who finishes in the fewest darts wins. The fastest a player can finish is obviously 9 darts, but you're unlikely to be doing that on a pub night! If you can finish in 20-25 darts you will win a lot more games than you lose. You don't have to be a world beater.

There are many opportunities on the board to help you get to an out in fewer darts. First, you must learn to use the whole board, and shed the beginner's habit of trying to get to a favourite double. The pro's know that all of the doubles are the same size and one is just as easy to hit as another (except for the bull). The pro's only favour a certain double because they have the ability to consistently land on it - don't disrupt your pattern of play by searching out a favoured double. If there are certain areas of the board you don't like, then you're giving yourself a handicap right off the bat.

Many beginners like double 16 because it breaks down 4 times all the way to double one. But when playing advanced players you are likely to only get one or two sets of darts at a double before its over. Here is another example to illustrate this point. A player is on 61 with two darts in his hand and his opponent is on 32. Chances are if he does not take it out with these two darts he will lose. Many beginners will try for treble 15 double 8. But any pro will tell you there is only one way to take out a 61 with two darts, treble 11 double 14. The reason for this is whether or not you hit a treble or single 11 with the second dart, you are guaranteed a third dart at an out, double 14 or the bull. Going the first way, a single 15 will leave you on 46; and you have just given your opponent three more darts!

In 501, a good rule of thumb for picking which treble to shoot at, is to assume the dart is going to hit a single. Whichever single will do you the most good, that's the treble. Think of it as a "Get out of jail free card". Remember even good players only hit trebles 15%-20% of the time, which means that on any one dart there is an 80%- 85% chance that at best you will hit a single!