Darts and Cricket Strategy | Playing Cricket | Getting Points

Advanced cricket strategy : Part I

Almost every dart article written on cricket strategy focuses on the concept of "pointing" and how many points are enough. Is there such a thing as "too many points"? The answer, surprising as it may be to some, is "no." The point (no pun intended) of playing cricket is to win and you do so by having all of your numbers closed and by having more points than your opponent. That's it. If you need to score 800 points to win, then that's what you do. If you routinely point (or don't point) and lose, then you may want to examine your approach. It has nothing to do with offending your opponent.

Just like your opponent, you will both start the game with a clean slate and if you choose to point on open numbers, so be it. You'll eventually have to close all of your numbers anyway, so focusing on pointing can and will only help you to a certain extent. Having 100 points in hand while your opponent has closed 4 numbers ahead of you won't be much of an advantage and you'll be surprised at how quickly someone can catch up and even pass you in such a situation.

Also consider that no one enjoys being pointed-on because it amplifies the fact that they are behind. Cricket is a game of ups and downs, so try to be prepared and stay focused on the task at hand remembering that each turn is a fresh start. What happened during the last throw doesn't matter - focus on what you need to do with the next 3 darts. We also wouldn't concern ourselves with what your opponent enjoys or doesn't enjoy. He or she is trying to win too, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they may be grunting and groaning behind you as the points climb. This person also has the opportunity to close numbers and to point you in kind - and he or she should do so if given the chance.

On that note, you might meet - or have already met - someone who goes ballistic the moment you score some extra points. Comments such as "play like a man" or "that's how cowards play" come to mind and such a person would prefer you to go toe-to-toe with them - dart for dart. The main problem with this, of course, is that it's silly. Why would you ignore a strategic advantage in a game measured by wins and losses? Imagine saying to Wayne Gretzky "OK, I'll play you one-on-one but you can't deke me out because I don't play that way."

Now, we understand that some leagues have traditionally played cricket that way and we're not in any way suggesting that they shouldn't. They can play any way they choose to. The trouble with that sort of thing is that when such a player faces someone who will gladly go 2 or 3 darts ahead the sportsmanship tends to go out the window. When in doubt, go with the following:

If it's in the rules, it's OK. If someone says "pointing is for suckers," show them a copy of the rules and ask them to buy you a beer for wasting your time.

Now, the generally accepted rule of thumb specific to pointing is to keep yourself 2-3 darts ahead. We've heard people say that 50 points (or two bulls) is reasonable, but we prefer to keep it in the form of "darts." This could be 40 points, 30 points, whatever - if you force your opponent to use 2 darts to keep up, it's unlikely that he or she will do much damage with that last dart. Sure he or she may hit the odd triple with one dart in hand but for the most part it won't happen.

Even Phil Taylor and John Part average triples just 40% of the time - and that's at the end of a tournament week - so if you are playing a strong opponent you might consider trying to stay 3 or 4 darts ahead. Likewise, with a weaker opponent you may not need to stay more than 1 dart ahead. Another consideration is how you are playing on any given day. If you're very confident and throwing well, you may not need to stay too far ahead. If you are struggling, you may want to cushion your success a little. It's a judgement call, but you should always be thinking about where you are, where your opponent is, and what you need to ensure that you remain in the lead.

Another thing that seems to be overlooked by newer players is the importance of being able to hit bulls. We've all heard novice players (and sometimes experienced ones, too) say things like "I'm not good at hitting bullseyes." The solution to this, of course, is to practice them and to practice them often. It's unreasonable to expect to do well if you don't practice and most players would agree that the level of success they enjoy is directly correlated to the amount of practice they put in.

Let's pretend that you've won the bull and hit 4 20s with your first 2 darts. You now have 20s closed and 20 points in hand and you still have a dart to throw. Would you go for the 19s and hope to hit the triple? We know that even a top pro would have a 40% of hitting one and getting a single 19 won't really help one way or another. The smart play is to grab another 20 points. Hitting 5 20s forces your opponent to hit 6 19s in order to regain some control and, unless you are playing John Part, this is probably not going to happen. If your opponent manages to hit 3 19s, you can now have the following conversation with yourself:

"OK, I have 40 points in hand, so he needs to hit 3 more 19s just to catch up. He probably won't hit 3 19s as well as 3 20s, so I'm safe to close the 19s."

Make sense? As obvious as this scenario seems, the logic is pretty much the same in all cricket situations. It's all about odds, probability, and accurately assessing your ability on any given turn.

Now let's assume that you went for the 19s, missed the first dart, and hit a single 19 with your second dart. What should you do? Here's the conversation you might have with yourself:

I can try to hit the triple 19 with my last dart, but it's a low percentage shot because even the best players only hit triples 40% of the time. If I hit a single 20 instead, I'll have 60 points and he'll need 5 19s to pull ahead. Even if he manages to hit them, I'll only need two 19s and one 20 on my next turn to regain the lead.

Always remember that cricket is a game of singles. Unless your name is Phil Taylor or John Part, don't fool yourself into believing that you will be hitting triples at will - you won't. No one hits 7 marks each time up so don't start thinking that you will either. Be realistic and think logically about your approach. If you use 2 darts to close a number and have a chance to point, use your third dart to extend your lead. Sure you can take that dart and go for the next triple, but since we know that you have less than a 40% chance of hitting it, why waste it?

OK, so you now know what to do if you happen to be ahead and how to keep your opponent 2 darts behind at all times. But what if you lose the bull to start and your opponent hits 3 20s?

Being behind in cricket is hardly pleasant but it's not the end of the world. As we mentioned above, it's always about what you can do with your next 3 darts and the plan is to create an edge if you can. You can go for the 20s with the thinking that you're not behind in points yet, but what if you hit 2 20s and not the 3 you needed? And what if you do hit the 3 20s? All you've done is essentially start over and your opponent still has the advantage.

More advanced players may try to close the 20s, but they do this because they're, well, advanced players and know they will most likely make it up later on the game. One thing that almost anyone will tell you is that even if they do close them, they're still behind. They just didn't want to have 20s available to their opponents for pointing purposes.

One strategy is to move right to the 19s. If you hit 3, your opponent now has to do the same to keep the game in his or her favour. If you hit 4 or 5, they will have to score some points on the 20s and leave less than 3 darts for the 19s. Remember how this is a game of singles? Anything less than 3 darts at a given number means that the person is statistically not going to close that number on that turn. Make the person work at all times if you can and try not to make it easy on them. We're sure that you've all heard the term "chasing" and there's a reason why it's generally frowned upon - it rarely works!

Let's face it, if you're playing someone who is hitting triple after triple after triple, there's little you or anyone else is going to be able to do about it. The point with this strategy is to add some method to the madness and to understand what's really going on.

Maximise your chances of winning with every dart and always try to avoid the ego or "hero" shots. While they are fun to hit, a more methodical and systematic approach of keeping your opponent just out of reach - through scoring an appropriate number of points - will pay much higher dividends in terms of your overall wins and losses.

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