I’ve observed quite a bit of controversy during Cricket matches lately. And it always revolves around the same issue–pointing. Or to be more precise, what some folks consider “excessive” pointing.
To state the obvious, pointing is a strategic part of the game. Everyone has an opinion on darts strategy it seems, so here’s mine.
To begin, there is no rule limiting how much or how often you or your opponent can throw points. Accordingly, the best way to keep from being pointed, excessively or otherwise, is to close your numbers before your opponent does. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but complaining about someone’s points is well, pointless. You’ve got to take care of business at the oche.
Since no one in my circle of darters is likely to be appearing on ESPN anytime soon, we are all going to be faced with the issue of when and how much to point. Some of that will depend on the game situation and your foe, but there are some general rules of thumb I think apply in most circumstances.
1. Being ahead on points is a good thing. A very good thing. As long as you have more points on the board than the guy (or gal) you’re playing, you can’t be beat! How many points should you be ahead? Depends on your comfort level. I personally like to stay up by 2 bulls (that’s 26 points if you’re counting properly). Your mileage may vary, but I do believe there is such a thing as too many points. I’ll discuss that a little later.
2. Make all your darts work for you, especially that third one. Let’s talk this through. Say you open the game with a single 20 and then hit the triple with your next dart. What are you going to do with that third one? Yeah, yeah, you’re going to throw it at the board, but where on the board does it have the most value to you? The experts (at least the ones in a book I read when I first started darting) say you should expect no more than a single mark on any given dart. Which makes sense when you consider the odds. If I get one triple out of 3 darts on average, I’m throwing damn good. And I think that’s true for most of us
So, should I use my last dart for a single 19 or stay on the 20 for the points? I’d rather have a 40 point lead and no 19s, than 20 points and one 19. Here’s why. Let’s say your opponent answers with a 5 mark on 19s. You are still up on points, with the 20 closed. That’s pretty good shape. And here’s what I’d do next, I would try to close the 19s. If I hit a single 19 and then miss on the second dart, where is my third dart going to have the most value? Back up top! If I’m up by 22 points, my foe will need two 19s before he even thinks about working on closing the 20s. I pretty much stick to that strategy all around the board–if I can’t close a number with my third dart (again, assuming I’ll throw a single) and I have the opportunity to throw it for points, that’s where it is most likely going.
3. When is enough, enough? As stated earlier, you’ll find your own comfort level. If I’m up by a couple of numbers (or god forbid, down by a couple) I’ll alter my strategy accordingly. I’ve seen a lot of really good players once they get up on points make that third dart “work” by throwing at the bull. I’ve been on the wrong side of that strategy a few times, and trust me it is disconcerting to be down on points and seeing the bulls get closed mid-game.
And remember this–sometimes points just happen. You (or your foe) is going to hit a triple when a single would suffice. And we’ve all seen those irritating occasions when a shot at the 15 turns into a slider triple 17 for points. Ok, well it’s not so irritating when you have the “good luck”, but the point is that its nothing to get overly upset about.
4. Winning is the point. I play to win. And like most people, I really don’t like losing. If I get beat by a superior player, thems the breaks. If I beat myself, then it’s on me. Darts is a funny game in that while you are playing another player, it really comes down to you and board. If you take care of business at the oche, you’re going to win your share of matches. If you let what your opponent is doing with his darts get inside your head, you are likely going to lose. And if your opponent figures out that throwing “excessive” points is going to rattle you, well, guess what? They are going to throw those points.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it much either. But rather than get mad, I try to get even. I said earlier that as long as you are up on points, you can’t lose. But on the flip side, until you close all the numbers and bulls, you can’t win. So, someone throwing points they don’t need instead of working on closing numbers they do need to close is actually doing you a big favor. In my head I’m always saying “thank you for keeping me in this game!” You don’t always come back when you are down a hundred or more points, but as long as you have an open number to shoot at, you’ve got a chance to win. A few timely bulls or some trip 15s eats up a big points lead real quick. And I see exactly that happen pretty damn frequently. So, I say let them point and thank them after you take the W.
5. Darts is a game. A game usually played in bars. By people in various stages of inebriation. And maybe at times we take it all just a little too seriously. I guess I’d just remind everyone that we are supposed to be having some fun at this game. I understand that some of us are more competitive than others. But getting angry is counterproductive to throwing good darts, so there is really nothing to be gained from going down that road.
Darts is a game, but I don’t think it’s a “gentleman’s game”. There are good darters and bad darters. Nice people and not so nice people play the game. People have different ideas on how to play the game, some are good (mine) some are not (theirs). See what I mean? Play your game and let them play theirs. You can’t make your opponent play it your way. If they take a bad strategic approach to pointing, it’s on them, not you. Don’t take it personal and by all means, let your darts do your talking!
I’ve seen some really stupid stuff. Like the guy who threw for points needing only one bull to win. That’s just plain ignorant. And probably unsportsmanlike. Don’t be that guy. And more importantly don’t let that guy drag you down to his level.
Let me finish with a story about me. I was playing a person who is not only an outstanding darter that I admire and respect, but also a friend. In a tournament cricket game he opened with a 9-mark, all 20s. And I was pissed because to my way of thinking after 60 points, I’d have moved on to another number. Of course, an angry darter is a crappy darter and I lost the match. Afterwards I said some words I almost immediately regretted. After I calmed down and apologized we had a nice talk. He said he was really surprised by my reaction. He said he stayed on the 20s for two reasons: he was “feeling” that number and he respected me enough as a player to figure out he was going to need those points to beat me.
And that’s really the lesson in a nutshell, isn’t it? Make the third dart work for you and don’t take it personal. One man’s “excessive pointing” is another man’s show of respect.