How to Win Out Right
An opportunity for SDA players to help improve the state of finishing in our game.
Welcome to a new section where we'll try to get the word out about outs. We'll outline the basics of finishing and raise questions for you to ponder and maybe answer. Then there are some ideas on finishing strategies and the importance of knowing your outs. You'll find tables of three and two-dart finishes at the end.
First, we acknowledge that every player has his or her own way to finish, and that there is no right or wrong way. There are just some outs for which tried and tested ways work more easily. And then there are others where players are still searching for the best out.
A word about doubles. It's commonly accepted that leaving double 16 is a good idea, because a split is still good with 8 right next door and so on. Double 20 is a good choice for finishing as well. And although we have all met players who feel more comfortable elsewhere, for our purposes here we will stick with the standards like 16 and 20, followed in no particular order by 8, 12, 18 and 10.
Let's keep our survey to numbers over 60. Anything lower than that should be straightforward. Also, we make no distinction between pressure or non-pressure situations within a game. We consider all finishes to be necessary right now. To get the ball rolling, let's say our opponent is on a finish and we have 70 left.
There are thousands of possible ways to take out 70, such as two single 19s and a double 16, treble 14-double 14 or 10-20-double top, all of which are winning shots. The widely accepted approach, though, is to go for 18s. The first reason is that treble 18 is the most direct route to two darts at double 8, one of the "better" doubles, and a sick-looking opponent. The second part of the thinking concerns what you'll have to do with the second dart if the first one doesn't hit the treble. Single 18 leaves 52, a "nice" two darter.
Certain out shots have stood the test of time. Sixty-four is 48+16, or failing that 16+16+32, because little else makes any sense whatever. Seventy-eight is eighteens first and you'll rarely see any different: 54 leaves 24, 18 leaves 20-40.
But there are numbers that always cause differences of opinion. The debate on 68 is between treble 20 and treble 12 to start. On 72 left, we could start by going for 16s, but a treble 12 would be sensible here as well. Current knowledge says that 80 is best shot 60+20, with 20-20-40 as a backup, while some players still insist 48-32 is better. How about 82? Is it treble 14 or bull first? Both work well.
We'll publish your thoughts on these questions and any others. How do you deal with outs where a little creativity is required like 61 or 65 and the always fun 75 and 77? What is your experience telling you when you have those left? Treble 7 anyone?
On certain numbers, try as you might, there's no good way. These bones of contention include 63, 66, and 69. How do you do them? That's where you can get in the discussion. Send in your thoughts
Out with the old
The old ways are not always the best, and the game is always developing new theories. Veteran Team Saskatchewan player John Brann of Regina suggests that on 90 left, the traditional 54-36 is wrong. He says that "the only way to finish 90 when under stress is two single 20s to leave double bull. If you hit a triple 20 and have a shot at a non-bull double, great. But if not, at least you have a shot at the double bull and you still have a chance to win". The reason that going 54-36 is faulty with three darts left is because single 18 leaves you 72 and no way to a double without hitting a treble first. Note that 54 is the right shot with two darts left, as demonstrated by legend John Lowe in his classic 9-dart that ended with a 141 checkout 51-54-36.
Eighty-eight is a finish that was taught as 48-40 for many years. This has drawbacks if you hit single 16. We suggest treble 20 for 28 left, with 18-bull as a backup. The old way is still right with two darts in hand. On 92, it is tempting to aim for 60-32, but this will be a flop if you hit a 20 and still need a treble to finish. As with all numbers between 91 and 95, bull or 25 first leaves you a single-double or single-bull chance.
Sometimes the old ways can teach us something. If you want to go way back to the origins of darts, to the days when there were only doubles and no trebles on a dartboard, you will find new and interesting ways to take out certain bogey numbers. Have you ever thought of 66 as double 17-double 16? Or maybe starting 62 on double 15? It's a bigger target than treble 10 after all.
A decent player knows he or she can hit 25 or double bull first dart to help make an out. While there are numbers where this is a definite help, such as 85 or 82, some pundits want to take this much further. John Brann goes so far as to suggest that "with three darts in your hand and anything from 95 down to 81 (except for 86 and 90) you must shoot at the bull with your first dart."
The thinking behind this is that hitting at least 25 on the first dart leaves you on a 2-dart out that doesn't require hitting a treble. When left with numbers 90-95, it makes a lot of sense. However, on 81, 85 or 65, hitting 25 is good but 50? - not too great. Bull first on everything from 81-95 must still be regarded as something of a radical posture, and bull last dart may often be better.
Most numbers in the 80s will require a double bull on the last dart if the first treble is missed, such as 89 = 19+20+50, so is it really better to try to hit bull first instead of last and be left with 39? Hitting 25 first on anything over 85 means you still need a bull. Treble first leaves you two darts at a double and a treble is easier than a 50 any day.
Bull last might be preferred to bull first just for its pizzazz. Many players enjoy the satisfying thud of a third dart in the centre bull for its flashiness alone. Maybe bull last is better from the sports psychology point of view, in that it feels good when it hits and may also ruffle your opponent.
In the case of numbers between 90 and 95 aiming bull first is very sound if you want to avoid needing a treble. However, if you hit single bull first you'll still have to come back to bull to finish and may be blocked by the dart in the 25. What's your take on the bull start debate? Let us know
Above 95, you will always need at least one treble to make it out, so from here on in it's not for the faint of heart.
For higher outs, the advice we hear is to find ways of staying in the same section of the board with the first two arrows if possible. You might calculate that four of a certain number in the first two darts will leave you with a double that you like. A commonly used example of this is to shoot 18s on 104 left: 18-54-32. But did you know that on 108, you might want to try 17s or 19s? 108=17+51+40 or 19+57+32.
Many numbers in the range 111-119 are tricky, all requiring a treble, a single and double in different areas of the board, except for the two numbers you want to be on in this range, 112 and 116. Do you agree?
A number you never, ever want to have left with two darts in your hand is 99, because it's impossible to finish. So it's unwise to go for 20s on 119, for example. It has also been said that on 100 left you don't go for 20s for fear of hitting a single one. Seventeens are suggested as an alternative (17+51+32=100). The same applies to hitting a single 1 on 104. Brann suggests shooting 19s on 104, 19-57-28, because a single 7 or 3 is not fatal. This idea could extend to numbers like 103, 106 and so on.
The theory in the outs above 120 gets even more complex. You've still got to ask yourself what's left after the first dart, but is it even possible in two? It's well known that you don't shoot for 20s on 126 because it leaves you floundering if you hit single 20. But the same also holds for 122 and 128 (18s first) and 123 and 129 (19s). Twenty is right on 124 and 127, though.
Even if you hit a treble on a finish between 121 and 129, you are usually looking at bull last dart. Is there a solution to this we haven't heard? The benefits of going for bull first come up again on certain numbers in this range, such as 125, 132 and 135. See how it's starting to get complicated? We need some help here. E-mail us
To 170 and beyond
High outs are what separate the class player from the rest. As your game matures, you find them coming more often, and they grow with you as a source of confidence and prestige.
When you have a plan of attack for a high out it is far more likely to happen. Pounding the 60 or 57 and then wondering what you have left is a doomed strategy. Some inexperienced players with a knack for hitting high scores will not work on outs and take what comes: they'll never reach the higher echelons. That's going to take some effort in the counting department.
Dedicated players will know what they have left with every dart they throw below about the 225 mark. In a high-calibre match against a player that can go out at will, you need to leave yourself a three-dart finish to stand a chance. If you're on 222 for example, you do not want to score 60, and with one dart left on 192 or 195 you have to try for a 25 minimum to leave a shot out.
John Brann raises a question about finishing, concerning the psychology of knowing the game better than your opponent. "Throwing at the correct combinations for the situation sends a message to your opponent. Even if you miss the combination, he or she will have to show you respect because you have demonstrated that you know what you’re doing. Will this overcome a disparity in skill between you and your opponent?"
If you have an answer to that or the following questions, contact us here
Have you made a nice out lately? Let us hear about it and why it was a good way to go.
Are outs important? Some players can do just fine and not know the outs. Why bother?
Do you have practice routines for finishing? We'd like to know about them.
All submissions will be considered for publication.
Jason Skinner (Team Saskatchewan '04, '05, '07)
Jason agrees that on 74 left with three darts, treble 14 is popular, but he doesn't go that route. He prefers "54-20, or if you miss the treble 18 then 18-16-40...because you generally shoot more at the 18 during a match than the 14." He has a different take on 75 left with three darts. "Instead of 51-24, I like 39-36 because it's on the same side of the board."
Jason mentions another school of thought, which says that if treble 20 leaves you a double, then why not shoot treble 20? He's seen this approach by some players, even at the National level, on something like 74 left. The reason for this, he explains, is that you're "shooting treble 20 all match and you will have better odds hitting the treble 20 than the treble 14 because you have not had a shot at that treble all match."
Scott Thomson (Team Saskatchewan 2007)
Scott has made good use of the 'stay with treble 20' theory. He recalls a big match from last season.
"At the Bridge City Open playing against Canada's #1 ranked player in a knockout round, we both had 114 left in the deciding leg sitting at 2 legs apiece. He threw for the out first and left himself on 32 and then I stepped to the line. My first dart was at treble 20 which skimmed the wire and went high. I threw at the treble 20 again and hit it, scoring 80 with a dart in hand. Common theory says to go for the 54 on the second dart after missing the first treble 20 to leave tops for out. I felt that I had a better shot at the treble 20 than the treble 18, took it, hit it and knocked in double 17 for a major victory over one of Canada's finest dartsmen. That's how darts is played! Go for Glory!"
Practice your outs
Here's a new practice routine for doubling out. Pick a number at random in the range of 30-50, say, and try to take it out. If you are successful with three darts, add ten to the number and try making that out shot. If you miss, subtract one and try that, and so on. Keep it going as long as possible. That's all the rules. No chalk, just outs.
As you can see it's a routine that gets harder as you achieve success, and you really have to be "on" to stay up in the higher numbers. Getting into the 80s and 90s and staying there is worthy of a grade A. Getting over the 100 mark and staying there is truly the sign of a good shot maker. You have to make at least 1 out of 10 finishes to stay afloat. You are shooting at a different out every time you go up to the board, which gives it variety. This routine also works for all levels of player.
Out tables are available as printable documents here
How to use: Look to table 1. If the first dart doesn't work and you still have between 61 and 110 left, see table 2.
Table 1. THREE DARTS IN HAND
Table 2. TWO DARTS IN HAND