Gotcha Darts: How to Play, Rules and Tips to Win

gotcha darts

Gotcha Darts is one of the most popular darts games around the world. A fast-paced game originating from the UK pub scene, the aim of the game is to race your opponents to a target number (301 for example).

It’s a great game for all abilities and will challenge even the most experienced dart players.

Gotcha Darts at a Glance

How Many Players2 to unlimited
Numbers in Play on the DartboardAll of the numbers on the dartboard are in play
ObjectiveBe the first player to score the exact number of specified points

Using three darts per round, each player must take turns to score as many points as they can until they score the exact number of specified points, so even if you’re a complete novice you can still take part and enjoy the game. The concept of Gotcha darts is super easy and fun, however when you have more than 2 players there are additional rules that come into play, making it more challenging and competitive.

In this in-depth guide, we will be looking at the basic rules of Gotcha darts, along with some handy tips and tricks for new and advanced players.

What Do You Need to Play Gotcha Darts?

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All you need to play gotcha darts is a dartboard, darts and players! It’s honestly that easy. The standard dartboard used across the globe is the ‘clock’ board (the one you’ll see in most pubs and professional darts matches) which is 18 inches in diameter and features 20 numbered triangular segments of equal size.

It includes the bullseye in the middle, with the outer bull surrounding it. Gotcha most commonly uses the standard 20-numbered dartboard that features double rings on the parameter and triple rings near the center. 

Your dartboard can be any type – cork, electric, bristle or even magnetic! As long as it has 20 numbers with an inner and outer bullseye and double and triple rings, you’re good to go!

Well, almost good to go. You need to round up your friends to play as well. As mentioned above you can play gotcha with 2 or more players although if you’re trying to perfect your darts technique it can be a fun solo game too.

The Winmau Blade 5 Dartboard is a professional bristle dartboard that is even recommended by the BDO. It’s designed for increased scoring and decreased bounce-outs. To check the current price and availability of the Winmau Blade 5, click here to view it on Amazon.

What Is Gotcha Darts?

Gotcha darts is a fast-paced, enjoyable, competitive and simple game for all abilities that involves players needing to hit a target number to win. The usual targets are 301 or 501 as they mirror typical dart games, but you can use lower or higher numbers depending on group size, individual abilities and length of game.

Gotcha darts is most commonly played on a standard 18-inch dart board with 20 numbered segments. It can be played with as little as 2 people and there is no maximum on the amount of people that can play, making it a family favourite for parties as everyone can get involved including the kids!

How to Play Gotcha Darts

Gotcha darts is a great, entertaining and easy to follow darts game meaning it’s perfect for novices or large parties. The great thing about gotcha is there is no threshold on the number of people that can play, making it an inclusive game for all. The length of each game depends on how high you set the target number – a lower target number will usually result in a quicker game whereas a higher one will be longer (depending on individual abilities).

The objective of the game is to score as many points as possibe per turn, so even if you’re not the most accurate darts player, you can still throw and hope for the best!

To begin, you need to choose your target number. Most commonly, you will find people use 301 or 501 as it mirrors a standard darts game, but you can go higher to 1001+ if you’re more advanced or just want to play a longer game. 

If you’ve set your target to 501, to be the winner you need to score exactly 501 points. No less or no more, it must be 501. So, if after a few turns you find yourself at 495, you need to score 6 to win the game. 

Let’s take a look at an example using 501 as the target:

Target score – 501

1st Player

Throw 1 – 60 scored (total of 60)

Throw 2 – 100 scored (total of 160)

Throw 3 – 100 scored (total of 260)

Throw 4 – 120 scored (total of 380)

Throw 5 – 60 scored (total of 440)

Throw 6 – 61 scored (total of 501, you win the game)

As we outlined above, every round your score adds up until you reach the target number. This example is based on an intermediate darts player, who has the ability to hit a double or treble. The game could go on longer depending on throwing accuracy of players in your team and target set.

Advanced or professional darts players would hit the 501 target in a couple of throws, with a number of double and treble scores included, so you would decide on the target number based on your groups individual abilities.

To win the game, all you need to do is be the first one to hit the target score. While it sounds really easy, the fun really starts when you have a group of 2 or more players playing as there are additional rules that come into play, making it harder to win.

Killing In Gotcha Darts

Killing in gotcha darts is one of the most fun parts of the game as it gives you the chance to ‘kill’ your opponent’s score, sending them back down to zero. You can ‘kill’ your opponent’s score if, on your turn, you hit the same score as the previous player’s total score. If you hit the same number, you kill your opponent and send them back to zero.

Below is an example:

Player 1

Throw 1 – 60 scored (total of 60)

Throw 2 – 30 scored (total of 90)

Throw 3 – 10 scored (total of 100)

Throw 4 – 50 scored (total of 50)

Player 2

Throw 1 – 90 scored (total of 90)

Throw 2 – 30 scored (total of 120)

Throw 3 – 100 scored (total of 220)

Throw 4 – 30 scored (total of 150)

As you can see above, player 2 has hit player 1’s total score of 100 with their third throw, killing player 1 and sending them back to zero. This gives player 2 an overall advantage to try and win the game.

Killing is much easier in the start of the game, as scores will typically be below 180 (the highest score you can get on a standard dartboard), any higher than this and you will be unable to kill the previous player.

Killing in gotcha darts makes the game more fun and competitive as it allows each player to try and get an advantage over the previous in order to win. Killing is particularly good for beginner players, who may not be so accurate with their throws, as it helps give them a boost to win the game.

Front Runner

The front runner is typically the first player. To decide who goes first, you could use a random player generator, flip a coin or throw a dart at the board and the closest player to the target goes first. 

The front runner has an advantage on other players in the game as they get to go first. As the first player, you really want to try and score big in order to make it more difficult for the next player to kill you in the game. 

A score of over 100 would be difficult for many beginner players to replicate, so aim high. As tempting as it can be to aim for triple 20s every time, we recommend going for a variety of numbers to make it more difficult for player 2 to catch you. 

If you throw all your darts at the same number, such as 19, and score 57, it’s much easier for your opponent to follow suit and kill you, bringing your score back to zero. That’s why we recommend mixing it up to make it more difficult for your opponent to match your score. 

A high score of 180 is great and everything, but if you scored 171 by aiming for a triple 20, triple 19 and triple 18 this makes it much more difficult for the other player to match than if you went for 3 triple 20s. 


The chaser is typically the second player, or opponent. As the chaser you want to keep your eye on everything player 1 is doing so that you can assess your next move and decide whether or not to kill them, putting you in the lead and giving you the overall advantage.

If, after player 1s turn, their score is relatively low (50 or under), you won’t gain anything by killing them. Instead, your focus should be to score as highly as possible so that you can take the lead position. 

If player 1 has scored over 100, with a mix of double and treble shots, then you should consider trying to match their score to kill them and send them back to zero. If your opponent is fairly amateur, it’s highly unlikely they will be able to match that score again thus giving you an overall advantage.

The front runner always needs to remain aware of their opponents next move in order to keep ahead of the game whereas the chaser should consider taking risks and trying to go for higher scores.

As a chaser you should always think the front runner is going to check out on their next turn if you don’t hit the numbers you set out to. This is because theoretically they are much closer to winning the game as they started first.

Busting In Gotcha Darts

As mentioned above, the objective of gotcha darts is to be the first player to score the exact number you set as a target. 

So, if you set your target at 501 and your current total is 471 then you need to score 30 to win. You can hit a double 15, a 10 and 20 or any other combination that gives you 30 and an overall score of 501.

If you aim to score 30 but accidentally hit treble 15 scoring 45 then this will bring your total score to 516 and you will bust. Busting in gotcha darts means your score will reset to your previous score meaning on your next turn you have to start from 471.

Similar to regular darts, a bust in gotcha typically arises when a competitor throws a higher score than the target number. The winning throw must score the target number exactly. When a bust happens, no score is marked, and the player goes back to their previous score.

Busting can be incredibly frustrating when playing gotcha darts, particularly if you bust on your first dart meaning it leaves the board open to your opponent winning. 

How to Keep Score In Gotcha Darts

Keeping score in gotcha darts can be incredibly simple, although when playing with killer rules in force it can get complex. The aim of the game is to check out on the exact number set out at the start of the game, so if you chose 501 as the target you need to check out with exactly this number to win.

If you are early on in the game and someone catches you at 100 points, your score will reset to zero and you need to start working up to the target again, example below:

Player 1:

Throw 1 – 60 scored (total = 60)

Throw 2 – 30 scored (total = 90)

Throw 3 – 10 scored (total = 100)

Throw 4 – 60 scored (total = 60) – score reset to zero as you were caught by the chaser

Player 2

Throw 1 – 90 scored (total = 90)

Throw 2 – 30 scored (total = 120)

Throw 3 – 100 scored (total 220)

Throw 4 – 20 scored (total 240)

How Do You Win In Gotcha Darts?

The only way to win in gotcha darts is to check out on the exact target number. If players struggle hitting exactly that number, everyone playing must continue to take turns until someone checks out. 

Although gotcha darts is incredibly fun and can be enjoyed by players of varying abilities, it does require some throwing accuracy and patience so isn’t a game for those wanting something quick. 

If you are looking for a quick game of gotcha darts, we suggest to play with a lower target such as 101 as this would end much quicker than a game that has a target of 301 or 501. 

Gotcha Darts Tips

It can be very tempting in gotcha darts to try and get a high score every round or try and kill the previous opponent, resetting their score to zero, but unless you’re a dab hand at darts, this probably isn’t the best approach.

Instead, we recommend trying to score high in the first one or two rounds to keep you safe from kill threats and then calculating what you need to check out first and win the game. Start the game by aiming for a 20 and once you have landed it, try to get a double or a treble to increase your chances of safety. This will help you stay safe as your opponent may struggle to kill you if you have a high score.

Once you’re in the clear, you should then calculate your moves by assessing what you need to hit each round to successfully check out on the exact target number.

Throughout the game be mindful of your opponents, have the mindset that they could win on their next move and tailor your shots around that.

Final Thoughts

For novice darts players we recommend setting a relatively low target such as 101 or 201 to give you the opportunity to practice the game and practice throwing accurate shots. 

Intermediate darts players should be fine setting a target of 301 although if you want a longer game we recommend 501 as a good target. For the advanced darts players among us the world is your Oyster! Advanced darts players will most commonly set a target of 1001 as this allows them to achieve the score in as little as 6 turns. 

You can play gotcha darts with additional rules in play such as killing or as a simple target game. Either way the fact that you can adjust the target number based on skill levels and length of game makes it a great competitive game for all ages. 

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