Darts is one of the most popular games in the world. Whatever your size or stature you can try your aim at throwing three darts at a board and see how good you are. The game has been popular for many years but few know the origins of the game or how close it came to extinction.
The majority of sources suggest that darts came to existence in the Middle Ages. Soldiers who were bored after fighting or training were looking for something to do and used what they had in their area. The majority of soldiers had access to arrows and barrels of beer. That was all that was required. The men started to throw arrows at the bottom of the barrels to see who could land closest to the center.
The game grew and grew in popularity and before long most of the men in British armies were playing. When wars ended or the weather turned the soldiers were annoyed that they couldn’t play their game inside. The barrel would still work but the arrows were far too big. Slowly as the game developed the arrows became smaller and smaller into the ones that we are familiar with today. The barrel is gone as well. Soldiers found that cutouts form trees worked well. The circular shape remained but the circular rings showing the age of the tree helped to identify who was closer to the center. In addition, as the wood-aged, it would crack in a radial fashion which was when players started to divide the board based on points.
However, it wasn’t until 1896 (around 400 years later) for the game to take the final form we know today. Brian Gamlin was a carpenter who enjoyed making dartboards. It is said that he was the first to put numbers on the board. He came up with the system that we still use today. The numbers are placed on a board to reward skill and punish chance. The 20 is the highest number on the board and has a 1 and 5 to either side of it. The 17 is surrounded by a 2 and 3. This is one reason that if you are not a great dart player you should always aim for the 19 instead of the 20. If you miss too high you are likely to still hit a 7 instead of a 1 or 5.
At this stage, dart boards started to appear in every pub in Britain yet they would soon disappear. In the early 1900s, British laws were against games of chance as people were losing their money too easily. Darts was included as a game of chance and was banned from pubs around the country. One pub owner and a particularly good darts player took offense.
A man by the name of Foot Anakin challenged the law and went to court. He challenged anyone in the court to a game. Anakin straight away hit three 20s. The court clerk missed twice and managed a 7. Anakin then hit 3 double 20s. The judge was in awe. He asked Anakin to repeat it and he did so with ease. The display proved that the game was not one of chance at all but a clear game of skill. Darts was allowed back into the pubs of the UK and its popularity has never dwindled since.
It then made it to the rest of the world after world war two. American soldiers who were stationed in Britain loved the game and brought it home with them and it has continued to spread ever since.