Ten years ago the ability to bet on darts would have been limited to say the least. The sport was far from struggling, but it never really had any serious coverage beyond a lot of the major tournaments which in turn, discouraged bookmakers to really put much time or effort into making comprehensive markets for a substantial number of events.
How times have changed! Darts is probably as big as it’s ever been. The likes of Sky Sport has been at the forefront of this revival and not only are more people than ever playing the game, but more are watching the game at home. It’s not uncommon to see a darts tournament of some form on the old wireless pretty much 52 weeks of the year. Once more, the game has been ‘glamorised’ and it’s colourful, entertaining outlook it carries seems to relate to the majority of its audience.
Any increase in sports popularity always seems to get the bookmakers attention. Darts is very much a working class game as well, which is probably why it’s become so popular in betting shops and online around the world. Choice is always a good thing if you are a punter and if choice is on offer, it often means bookmakers work that little bit harder to get you through their doors and using their betting client.
What we’ve got below is 5 bookmakers that we think will fit a wide range of punters. Whilst we always rank these bookmakers in terms of which ones we think are best, we try to give you the facts to make your own decision. What works best for one person, might not for another, so bear that in mind when reading through our picks for the best darts betting sties.
Best Darts Betting Sites
#1 – Coral
At the top of the pile for darts betting comes Coral. These guys have come a long way over the last couple of years and whilst they have been around for donkey’s years, they are now starting to compete with some of the bigger boys in the industry. We honestly think that one of the reasons behind their success comes down to giving new leases of life to betting markets that never used to be all that popular, with darts being a prime example of that.
The PDC is the obvious choice for most bookmakers when it comes to betting at least, but Coral have gone the extra mile and included a number of the BDO events as well. Granted, the number of PDC markets far out ways that of their rivals, but it’s a nice addition to have, especially if you have split loyalties when it comes to betting.
We loved the range of markets on offer as well. You aren’t just simply confined to betting on the outright winner of a match or even the winner of a tournament. Their pre match betting allows you to take on markets such as handicap betting, correct score, total legs, total 180s, most 180s and so many more. In fact, some games include over 20 markets just for one match! Bare in mind, this doesn’t include their live betting markets that are just as comprehensive.
#2 – BetVictor
BetVictor are just one of those bookmakers that are so well rounded these days. There’s few sports that they don’t cover well and you’ll be delighted to know that darts is actually one of their stronger sports these days.
The darts sections open up with an overview of upcoming games that you can bet on and ante post markets for future tournaments. They also include an enhanced specials section for both tours that includes markets such as a certain player to win a major or to qualify for a certain event, that sort of thing. It’s not your mainstream type of betting market which is definitely something we like to see.
The site really comes to life when you enter the head to head matchups for a particular game. The top section of this page includes a little graphic showing tournament 3 dart averages, % doubles hit, head to heads and last 5 results. It’s a fantastic little feature and something that actually allows you to make a more informed decision about your bet. What’s great is that all of this information is linked to the markets representing that match as well; of which, the site performs admirably. You can bet on handicaps, checkouts, maximums, maximum finishes and correct score markets, to name but a few.
#3 – Ladbrokes
Ladbrokes are actually one of the reasons why darts has become so popular. The sponsor the World Championships and whilst this single sponsorship alone doesn’t automatically increase the profile, it’s companies like Ladbrokes who plough the money in in terms of prize money and in turn, generate a buzz around the game.
This is one of the main reasons as to why we were so surprised to see a slightly ‘thin’ darts betting section on site. They cover the major tournaments and the majority of the ones not quite at the same standard as the majors but there is very little depth to the markets. On the same game that BetVictor were offering over 20 potential markets, Ladbrokes have just three, which says it all really.
They only managed to save face because of how well their darts section is laid out and we were pleased to see that live betting is integrated with the main betting section as well. They are also pretty well priced to be honest and will give any of the bookmakers in the top three a run for their money.
#4 – Betfred
Betfred failed to really capture the imagination and fall a fair way short at the bottom of our five picks. Coverage is actually not too bad, but they only show markets for tournaments that are in running. Whilst this isn’t a massive issue for some, it does make the page look very thin on the ground and we would like to see some early markets, even if just for the majors of the year.
Once into the games you get a good array of markets to bet on including correct score, most 180s and highest checkout. These are all pretty common across the board but we really can’t help but fail to get excited about the design and layout of this section. It’s always going to be a solid pick, but without any massive incentive to really use it as a main darts betting base.
How to Bet on Darts
We’ve mentioned about the popularity of darts has continued to grow and whilst it will never lose that mantel of overweight men playing in smoky public house tag, the game is now far from poor mans sport.
This has all had a positive implication on the betting outlet for darts and now its easier than ever to get a really solid range of markets to bet on. What you must first do is establish where you want to place your bets. Depending on what you want from a bookmaker will ultimately depend on which bookmaker to choose. We can’t make this decision for you, although you know which ones we recommend now.
After your bookmaker has been chosen then you can now start to look at ways to maximise your net wins. What we have found is that a lot of bookmakers are pretty poor to really find out which bets are going to be of value. This is why you will need to use outside sources in order to do so.
One of the best tools we have found is to simply follow as many people within the darts industry as possible on outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Whilst these guys might not be offering tips as such, an innocuous Tweet such as “Really fancy Bob tonight, he’s been playing well and not getting the luck of the draw” might just spring you into action to investigate further. It takes a bit of time and effort, but you are finding out information form the best, and for free!
One thing we often get disappointed by is bookmakers inability or lack of want to produce several betting markets. Some do and some don’t, which makes it frustrating when you know how simple it could be for them.
The main market is always going to be the outright winners market. Now, more often than not this will be a simple win or lose situation, but there are tournaments, such as the Premier League that do add draws as part of their format. It should be pretty easy to see from your bookmaker if a draw is part of the equation.
Choosing the correct leg score is probably the next popular market and for this you must choose the exact score at the end of the match. One thing we will say about this market is that you need to note which games include playoffs. Some will require a player to win by two clear legs, meaning the outcome of this market could potentially be huge.
Most 180’s & Total 180’s
Most 180’s and total 180’s in a match can be found with a lot of bookmakers. Both pretty self-explanatory in that you need to choose which player will score the most 180’s and then the total number 180’s scored by both players combined throughout the match. You may also be able to choose how many 180’s a certain player will score on their own.
- Match Betting – Darts is a pretty simple format when it comes to match betting. A player either wins or loses, there’s no draws or ties involved. Simply select which player you think will win from this market. (Note: The Premier League of Darts is the only competition that includes draws and these can be selected if required).
- Outright Winner – Prior to the start of the tournament you can select which player you think will win. This market is also available as the tournament progresses but the odds are likely to be more favourable for most players towards the beginning.
- Most 180s – You can select which player will score the most 180s throughout the period of the match.
- Highest 3 Dart Average – Selecting which player has the highest three dart average in a match is the key in this market. It can also be extended to choosing which player produces the highest 3 dart average of the whole competition.
- 9 Dart Finishes – Another straightforward market is where you can choose if there will be a 9 dart finish or not. This can be over the course of a game or indeed the entire tournament.
- Highest Double Percentage – Choose which player has the highest double percentage of the match. This is worked out by amount of darts thrown at a double by the number of those darts which hit a double.
Darts Betting Rules
In the event that a player does not start the intended match for whatever reason then the ‘non-runner no bet’ rule will apply. This essentially means that all bets are off and will be refunded. If a player does not complete the match then the player progressing to the next round will be deemed the winner.
For bets placed in-play and the match does not find a conclusion or a player withdraws then all bets prior to settlement will be refunded. If bets in these markets have been placed and have been settled then this result will stand.
In matches where the game ahs not been completed after a player withdraws then bets from the individual player average, player checkouts and first leg/set markets will all become void.
- Player Withdrawal – If a player withdraws before or at any point during the match the player progressing to the next round will be deemed the winner.
- Incomplete Match – If the match is not complete then bets in following markets become void and stakes returned; individual averages, individual checkouts, most 180s, 180s market.
The Split in Darts
Darts first started to hit the mainstream in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, though it had actually initially appeared on television in 1962. That was when Westward Television showed the Westward TV Invitational to the south-west of England and the sport gained an audience. A decade later and ITV broadcast the News of the World Championship, whilst Yorkshire Television showed the Indoor League locally. A year later and the Indoor League began to be broadcast around the country, with 1973 also being the year that the British Darts Organisation was formed.
The 1970s & 1980s
That was the brainchild of Olly Croft and the idea was that it would look after the interests of players from the grassroots through to the best in the world. It became the governing body of darts in the UK, with more and more darts tournaments being shown on TV throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. Players soon became household names, turning professional and making a full-time living from the sport. In spite of the fact that the players drank and smoked on stage as a signal of its connection to the pubs, its popularity continued to grow.
Major Networks Drop Coverage
The sport’s peak was in 1983 when more tournaments were televised than ever before, but in the years that followed it began to lose a bit of its lustre. In 1988, the BBC decided to drop virtually all of its darts coverage, with ITV following suit with its local darts coverage. There was therefore a downturn of coverage in 1989, leading to the BDO banning drinking and smoking on stage for the World Championship. Even so, the poor image of the sport continued, whilst there was an undercurrent of discontent amongst the players that had been bubbling up during the 1980s.
There was concern that players had no say in the running of darts, to say nothing of an inability to wear shirts with their own sponsors on. The drop in prize money when darts tournaments stopped being shown had a big impact on the players that had turned professional, whilst the lack of exposure made it tougher to successfully get a net win from exhibition matches. The Darts Council had been formed in 1988 as a pressure group to represent the interests of players, but over three years of pressure made no real difference.
1992: World Darts Council Formed
In 1992, 16 professionals formed the World Darts Council, which was their own organisation in the sport. As a result, the 1993 World Darts Championship proved to be the final time that the competition was played as a unified event. Given that the WDC was made up of all of the active BDO World Champions, it was clear that it was going to be the more respected of the two bodies. The WDC was aided in the split by the recent formation of Sky Sports, which agreed to show their version of the World Championship and the World Matchplay even from 1994 onwards.
The End of the BDO
There was plenty of back and forth between the two organisations in the years that followed the acrimonious split, culminating in a Tomlin Order being agreed in June of 1997. As a result, the BDO agreed to recognise the WDC and that all players could decide which events to play in. The World Darts Council, meanwhile, accepted that it would no longer claim to be the governing body for the sport globally. This, in turn, resulted in it changing its name to the Professional Darts Council, accepting that the World Darts Federation was the global governing body.
In spite of all of this, the British Darts Organisation struggled in the years that followed. Even the decision to lift the eligibility rules in 2018, allowing PDC card holders to enter BDO tournaments, didn’t make any real difference in the popularity of the organisation. The prize money for the competition was lowered just days before the start of the 2020 World Championship, in part because of the fact that it lacked a sponsor. With only 15% of tickets sold ahead of the tournament, the eventual champion won 77% less prize money than the year before.
In the months that followed, the writing was written on the wall for the British Darts Organisation, with more and more councils switching to the United Kingdom Darts Association. In September 2020, the BDO went into liquidation, effectively drawing its 47 year ruling of the sport to an end. As a result, the Professional Darts Corporation became the de facto governing body of darts in the United Kingdom, responsible for some of the biggest tournaments in the sport. It also runs the world rankings for darts, which is based on the performance of the players.
The Big Darts Tournaments
Though there are several different competitions that are run throughout the year under the banner of the Professional Darts Corporation, there are really six that are standouts and worth mentioning. They are as follows:
Most of these competitions are covered by Sky Sports, following on from the agreement that was reached between the broadcaster and the PDO decades before. They each have their own quirks and individualities that make them unique, as we’ll explain in more detail now.
PDC World Darts Championship
Held annually, the World Darts Championship gets underway each December and reaches its conclusion the following month. Held in London’s Alexandra Palace, it is thought of as being the PDC’s most prestigious tournament. The winner not only receives a good chunk of prize money, they also get the Sid Waddell Trophy, which is named in honour of the sport’s finest commentator, who passed away in 2012. It is part of the Triple Crown of Darts, alongside the Premier League and World Matchplay events.
The top 32 players from the PDC Pro Tour Order of Merit that have not already qualified as well as 32 qualifiers from competitions around the world begin the tournament in the first round. The top 32 from the PDC Order of Merit come in in the second round, with all matches played as single in, double out 501 legs. Each set is the best of five, with the number of sets needed to win the match depending on the round of the competition. In 2022, the prize money was £2.5 million, of which £500,000 went to the winner.
Also played in a legs format and pitting the best players in the world up against one another, the World Matchplay event tends to take place in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, though it has been played in different venues. As with so many PDC tournaments, it began in 1994 and has taken place annually ever since. The format of the competition has changed several times over the years, such as the necessity to win by two clear legs between 1994 and 2012. Since 2013, a sudden death leg is used to decide matches with no clear winner after six extra legs.
As with the World Championship, the number of legs that need to be won to progress to the next round depends on stage of the competition. It is the first to ten legs in round one, 11 legs in round two, 16 legs in the quarter final, 17 for the semi-finals and 18 legs in the final itself. There have been numerous different sponsors of the World Matchplay tournament since its inception, with various bookmakers having taken on sponsorship duty since the 2000 season. It is the second of three legs of darts’ Triple Crown.
World Grand Prix
Traditionally held in the Irish city of Dublin, the World Grand Prix was created in 1998 and took place in the Casino Rooms of Rochester. The thing that makes the event unique is that it is the only televised tournament that requires players to start and finish each leg on a double. It has boasted several different formats over the years, largely thanks to the fact that the PDC were trying to find its place in the calendar. It began life as a straight knockout tournament, with each set taking place over three legs before being extended to five legs in 1999.
At the time of writing, it remains a straight knockout tournament, having experimented with a group stage in the past. The double-start nature of the event means that nine-dart finishes are exceptionally difficult, with two near misses in the first two years of its existence. Indeed, it took until 2011 before a nine-darter was achieved in the competition, thanks to Brendan Dolan pulling it off in his semi-final match against James Wade. In 2014, Wade himself and Robert Thornton achieved perfect legs in the same match, which was the first time it had ever happened in a televised competition.
Every year, darts players of different abilities descend on the Butlins Minehead Resort for what is known as the ‘FA Cup of darts’. That is because amateurs and professionals alike are able to enter the tournament, which began life in 2003. As you might expect, qualifying events are held for amateur players in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, with 16 players getting into the competition via this route. They start in the first round alongside eight Challenge Tour qualifiers, eight Development Tour qualifiers and the Tour Card holders that are ranked 97-128.
The second round sees those played ranked between 96 and 65 in the PDC’s Order of Merit joining the 32 winners from the first round, whilst round three involves those ranked from 64 to 33 joining in. The remaining players ranked between 32 and 1 in the world join in the fourth round, with the knockout competition carrying on from then onwards. The draws for the first three rounds proper are made after all of the qualifying players become known, with rounds four onwards made on stage after the end of each of the preceding rounds.
Established in 2005, the Premier League Darts tournament is played weekly between February and May. It originally started as a fortnightly competition that took place in smaller venues around the UK, featuring just seven players. Nowadays there are eight players that take part in a knockout style competition, made up of the PDC Order of Merit’s top four players along with four wildcard selections. It is the third part of the Triple Crown of darts, coming after the World Championship and then the World Matchplay events.
It has been broadcast on Sky Sports since its inception, originally alternating weekly with the Premier League Snooker competition. The snooker moved to late autumn in 2006, meaning that the darts takes centre stage every spring. For the 2022 version of the tournament, the prize pool was £1 million, which is some improvement on the £150,000 that was on offer during its first year. How many players take part in the competition changes, with ten involved between 2013 and 2021, bar two years when it was nine. It has been eight since 2022.
First played in 2007 at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, the Grand Slam of Darts, the competition saw the top players from the British Darts Organisation invited to take part until the BDO’s liquidation in 2020. It has been a ranking tournament since the 2015 edition and in 2018 it was moved out of Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall to the Aldersley Leisure Village due to the usual venue undergoing renovations. Typically, the event takes place over the middle two weekend in November.
The competition sees 16 players from the PDC qualify to take part, which is based on their performances over the previous year. The winners of the other Majors as well as the six non-ranking tournament winners are invited automatically, whilst any remaining spots are made up of the runners-up in those tournaments that haven’t already qualified to take part. Another eight spots are given to players from the Grand Slam of Darts Qualifying events, which are open to PDC Tour Card holders that haven’t already qualified.
- What Happened to the BDO?
- The Changing Face of Darts: How Has the Game Evolved Over the Years?
- Does Darts Have a Match Fixing Problem?