The world's best darts players are coming to Dubai. Try the sport
With the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters 2013 taking place this month, Mark Griffiths tracks down some of the city’s very own talents for a masterclass.
If you don’t know your ton-eighty and route 66 from your diddle for the middle, then May is the month to brush up on your darts lingo.
Colm McLoughlin, executive vice president of Dubai Duty Free, hit the bullseye when he signed up to host the Darts Masters, welcoming the likes of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, reigning and 16-time World Champion, to the region for a showdown on Thursday May 23 and Friday 24.
In a desperate bid to get dart-world clued-up, we stopped in at popular watering hole, Nell Gwynne at Dubai Marina’s Byblos Hotel where manager David Glennon claims to have seen an increase in the number of people taking up the sport in the emirate.
The target: Ken Halliday, 40, a British print and production manager by day, dart aficionado by night.
In The Darts Masters 2013 in January, Ken stepped up to the oche (that line on the floor in front of the dart board) for an open knock-out tournament against professional Martin Adams, winner of three British Darts Organisation (BDO) world championships and the legendary Eric Bristow, winner of five BDO world championships and five world masters.
‘I’m still trying to master the sport,’ says Ken. ‘My first entry to serious darts consisted of myself and a few mates just playing on a Friday night, and we decided to join Gateshead District League [in the UK]. In our first season we finished mid table, which to us, relative novices, was unbelievable.’
Hugely popular in Europe, darts is traditionally a two-player face off, throwing the spikes from a distance of 2.37m at a board 2.72m off the ground. Each player takes a turn to throw three darts at the board with the goal of reducing a fixed score, usually 501 or 301, to zero. The final dart has to land in either the bullseye, the centre ring, or one of the double segments on the outside of the board.
‘I’ve been playing for 25 years,’ explains Ken. ‘My father was a darts player and took me to a local leisure centre that hosted a tournament. I was hooked and as we always had a darts board in the house I was practicing every day.’
Don’t be fooled into thinking darts is all about the boys. Bar banter may play an integral role in the sport, but women give as good as they get. ‘My sister is a very good player who I struggled to beat last time I was in the UK,’ says Ken (quietly). ‘There’s a very healthy mixed league in the UK, but we do have ladies often play in the Nell Gwynne too.’
The world’s top eight darts players – Adrian Lewis, the world number two, seven-time major title winner James Wade, World Grand Prix champion Michael van Gerwen, European Champion Simon Whitlock, two-time major finalists Andy Hamilton and Wes Newton, five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld and of course, 16-time world champ Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor – will arrive in Dubai for the first leg of the World Series of Darts. Ken’s cash is on Taylor to take the title but he says he’s happy to offer his services in the superstar’s absence.
‘I’d be more than happy to show people a few pointers although I’ve never won anything major,’ he admits. ‘But I did once win a ride in a hot air balloon. Totally unrelated to darts but just thought I’d get that one in as it’s the only thing I’ve won!’ Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters 2013 takes place Thursday May 23 to Friday 24. One-day tickets Dhs199 (standard), season tickets Dhs299 (standard), Dhs495 (VIP). www.timeouttickets.com
Ton-eighty: A score of 180 (3 triple 20s).
Diddle for the middle: Throwing the bull to decide who will go first.
Hockey (oche): The Throw Line.
Route 66: sixty-six points scored in a throw.
3 in a bed: Landing three darts in the same bed.
Madhouse: Left with three points.
Tin Hat: No Score.
Shanghai: Single, double and triple of a number.
Ken says Keep your head still, and let your arm do the work. I’ve seen so many people throw the darts like javelins and lurching forward. This never works in my experience.
Stay positive. It sounds simple to say it’s best when the darts go where you want them to go, but seriously, when you’re hitting the treble 20 consistently, you get a very warm feeling. It’s frustrating when this is never the case.
Keep calm. I’ve seen all kinds of players and different styles of throw but calm consistency is the key. Angry players with sharp objects in their hands are never good combinations.