by Frederick Everson
Keeping the level of interest in darts high in your favorite dart pub is essential if you would not have a pool table in the middle of your dart room. The broader and more varied the competition, the greater the level of play is apt to be, and the more new players the game is bound to attract. And I like new players because they are the ones old guys like me can usually beat, and competition is what darts is all about. Lots of players throwing darts and drinking lots of beer will also convince the pub owner to use good quality boards, and keep the scoreboards supplied with chalk, markers, and erasers.
One of the best tools to keep players throwing is a darts ladder, which is essentially a house leader board. The ladder at my favorite pub is a locally made wooden affair. Players buy a rung, emboss it with their name or logo on one side, and their phone number on the other. The pub owner can often be induced to pay for the ladder, as the investment can be recouped by selling the rungs to would be participants. The wooden blocks that serve as rungs can be painted and carved by its owner to suit his or her personal flair.
The Fox and Hounds Irish Pub in Brandon Florida has two ladders of 10 rungs each – an “A” flight ladder and a “B” flight ladder. Players on the ladder may challenge up to two positions above them. If the challenger wins, players exchange positions on the ladder. If the challenger loses, the positions remain unchanged. These are not hard and fast rules, and should be modified to fit the needs of the individual house.
Players are supposed to play at least one challenge match every other week, and we don’t have much of a problem with non compliance. Everyone on the “B” ladder is striving to get on the “A” ladder, and the best players are ever trying to get to the top of the ladder. Our house ladder rules permit unlimited rematches on the same night (at the winner’s discretion), but those two players may not schedule a rematch on a different night without playing someone else first. The purpose here is to keep the competition open and varied and make sure that grudge matches do not go on forever between the same two players.
The nice thing about the house ladder is that it mostly runs itself, and the match format can be designed to suit local game preferences. I mention what we do at the Fox and Hounds only because it has worked for us. For example, our ladder match is best of 5 games, starting with 301, followed by Cricket, then 501 straight start, then Golf, and Double Down. Most players welcome the change from more traditional league and tournament format.
We have added spice to our ladder matches by charging a $1.00 match fee, paid by the challenger. The money collected is paid out in the form of awards for match achievements, as shown in this sample:
Date______ (Circle Winner’s Name)
Challenger’s Name______________ ladder pos____
Challenged Player ______________ ladder pos___
140 (1/2 payout)
High On '01 (over 120)
High Out '01 (over 120)
Three bulls (1/2 payout)
Golf Score under 18
Double Down Score over 600
Again, the payouts can be adjusted to the level of play. As the administrator of ladder paperwork, I try to keep the payout a step or two behind the income. The money is an added incentive to encourage matches. We thought about awards other than cash, but cash is easy. In a different pub, pins, patches, or mugs might be the better choice for awards. Another alternative would be to use the income for something else – such as replacing or upgrading dart boards as necessary, or scoreboards. Another option is to charge nothing and just let the thing run itself. Whatever works best is the way to go.
The Challenge Report forms are kept in an envelope in the dart room. After the match is completed, the money and the form go to the bartender, who places them in another envelope behind the bar. The ladder administrator collects the forms and the money once a week, and makes payouts and restocks the forms.