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Gauging your Opponent
by Frederick Everson

One of the nice things about the game of Cricket is that it's more than a race to the final bull. If an opponent is cruising along throwing solid darts, it's possible to break his concentration by jumping a number and hitting him up for a pile of points. Or you might unnerve him -- or her -- by doing the unexpected. It all depends on who you are playing.

In league play I seldom get to see a stranger. Like a pitcher in baseball, I keep a mental book on all of my opponents. Some I run on, just throwing to stay ahead and race them to the bull. Against others I will play unorthodox game. Against weaker players I may experiment with subtle changes in strategy. For example I might start a game against a weak player by throwing my first dart at bull instead of at trip 20. I would not overtly insult someone’s game by overtly playing a dumb game – unless he deserved it. And there are some of those players out there.

The real trick in Cricket is knowing who to point, and when to point them. You also need to know who not to point. Some players fall apart if you heap the points on them, or they get so mad they can’t see straight. These are the players to hit hard and hit early, particularly if you rate them as better players.

I have a simple rating system for everyone I play. There are better players – defined as those who beat me more than I beat them. Then there are even players – those who play about the same as I do. There are good players, who will beat me if I make mistakes. The lesser players are those I beat on my bad nights, and finally there are novices.

My strategy for better players is to score points early. For example, if I hit a trip 20 with my first dart against a player I don’t beat often, I will probably throw at least another dart at the 20. Pointing is a defensive maneuver, and here it sometimes works.

With even players I will throw textbook darts. Never pointing when I am ahead, closing numbers and moving toward the bull. The exception would be against players who think too highly of their dart game. These players need a little sand kicked in their face, and sometimes I point them to death.

Against lesser players I won’t worry about points early in the game. These players will usually point me when they can. I respond by going about my business of closing open numbers, and take care of the points on the 16, 15 and the bull. I may even try an early shot at the bull when a good chance arises – like after hitting a trip and closing a number with my first dart. I have to be careful with this strategy, because some players improve, and if an underrated player gets too far ahead, I won’t be able to dig myself out of the points hole.

Against novices I may experiment with some subtle tactics. But basically I try to close this game quickly and without points, offering advice and encouragement to the novice, rather than trying to impress him with a strong game.

If I am playing someone for the first time, I will generally play the textbook game until I can rate his or her darts. That usually only takes two or three throws. You could employ the same tactics against everyone you play, but in the long run it would cost you some games. Disrupting your opponent’s thinking can be a decided advantage in Cricket, and identifying susceptible players will put more wins in your column.

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