The rules to any '01 game are relatively simple. You start with a specified amount of points (301, 501, etc.). Sometimes you may be required to hit a double to start. You score as many points as you can until the end of the game. The game ends when you score the remaining points and usually, the last dart must hit a double. Like I said, the rules are pretty simple. You cannot dictate what your opponent throws at and you opponent cannot dictate what you throw at. With rules this simplistic, one may believe that strategy doesn't play a role in '01 games at all.
For most of the game, the only strategy is to score as many points as possible. However, when setting up or taking out the game shot, there is some strategy involved. It may not seem like much, but it does make all the difference in the world. Deciding on whether to hit a Triple 20 or hit a Triple 19 can determine the outcome of the game. The decision that you make can either allow you a chance on winning or, in some cases, wondering what happened. Let me explain further.
In a recent 501 match, after 5 rounds, I had 71 left, while my opponent had 126 left. It was my opponents turn. His first dart, I assume, was aimed at the Triple 20. He only hit a single, leaving 106. I looked away from the board to concentrate on my next throw. I'm not quite sure what he hit with the next 2 darts, but he was left with 76. I went up to the line and hit Triple 13, Double 16. Game over. I threw a nice 17 darter. I knew that I did escape with a win that I shouldn't have because of my opponent's poor strategy.
The 'correct' strategy is to have thrown a Triple 19. If you score the 57 points, that will leave you with 69 (either T19, D6 or S19, DB). A Single 19 would have left 107 (T19, DB). This strategy would have increased his chance of winning the game. Through his poor choice, he ended up forfeiting his chance of winning the game on that round. Sure, taking out 107 in 2 darts is a difficult shot at best, but I will wager anything that, using a standard dart board and the requirement to double out, I can take out 107 in 2 darts before anyone in the world can take out 106 in 2.
Another bit of strategy that can be used is when you set yourself or your partner up with an out. At the last 'Shoot For The Moon' tournament in Huntsville, Alabama, my doubles partner had a brain dump. We had 259 left. My partner's first 2 darts were a Triple and a Single 20. His third dart was at the 20's. He hit a single, leaving me with 159. As he pulled his darts, he realized the mistake he made. There is no out combination that totals 159 points. His last dart should have been at the 19's. My next throw, I worked the score down to 60, but our opponents won the game on the next throw. I'm not saying that I would have taken out 160, but at least I would have a chance of winning the game. A slim chance is better than no chance at all.
There are a couple of excellent resources that explain what the out shot should be based on the set up of the standard dart board. One of them is an article written by Ken Berman titled 'How The Pros Do It'. In this article, Ken explains the best possible dart combination for a particular out, common 'rookie' mistakes, and what numbers to avoid, if at all possible. Another excellent resource is 'Fun*Dart*Men*Tals' written by Frank Platt. In this book, Frank breaks down in going for an out into 6 different stages. The last stage, for example, is when you have anywhere between 171 to 350 points. When you are at 350 points or below, with the exception of a few numbers, the game can finished the game in 6 darts. 'Fun*Dart*Men*Tals' was written with the specific purpose of making the darter think and plan well before the darts are thrown, using the old axiom 'Fail to plan, plan to fail'. In my opinion, both the article and the book are must haves for any beginner who wants to improve their game.
I can't stress enough the role, albeit a small one, that strategy can and will often play in an '01 game. If you have two opponents that are of equal ability, and one uses the right strategy and one uses the wrong one, the one who uses the best strategy usually wins. Increase your chances on winning. Learn good strategy. Practice good strategy. Use good strategy. It could make the difference between participating in the Finals of a tournament, or watching it.
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