General

The Million Dollar Darting Question

I have often wondered and speculated on what it would take to turn the game of darts in America to the sport of darts that England knows today.  The debate has rolled on and on with a plethora of ideas on what can be done, yet I wonder, how can we really do it? Some say, that a professional tour needs to be developed, yet, what will we develop and who will devote the time and effort to do so? Some say that tournament formats need to switch to less events and higher payouts for the singles. Yet, who is going to make those changes, or try to ensure that this happens? Should we just, as a nation, throw everything as we know it out the door, forget all that has happened, and start with a fresh clean slate?

We often find that we are very much a “stereotypical” type of nation. Once we get it in our heads that this is the way things are perceived, it is a rough road to travel to change those opinions. Could our stereotypical opinion of dart players in the US be changed? It seems to be an unknown answer to a very tough question. In the UK, darts is part of their culture and what they grow up with, whereas in the US, it is not. However, there are many other games/sports that started in other cultures that we seem to have no problem embracing in the US. Why does it seem that darts cannot? Is this why we are failing as a nation to compete?

Many times I wander back in time to the early 80’s where darts was on the rise in the US. What was it then that we are missing today? Why was it so successful, yet now we cannot seem to find that secret to success? Where did it all go? Was it the people involved that disappeared and they did not forward their knowledge on to new blood? Was it the changes introduced in tournament formats? Was it the influx of the soft-tip generation? We seem to want to always find a culprit in the demise, yet we cannot find an answer to fix it.

We tout the US players of today as the legends of tomorrow, yet they cannot seem to step up to the level in international play as much as the actual legends of years before them have done. Yet we do not seem to remember, or even care to know the past legends or their accomplishments. Maybe what made them the legends of days gone by needs to be relearned by the players of today before they can progress to become the legends of tomorrow?

We all have ideas on what could, should or might be done, yet we seem to be stagnating as a nation without any efforts to progress further. What will it take? Ahhh…..the million dollar darting question.


Follow up with Benjamin Dersch

In my first blog, I covered the amazing accomplishment of Benjamin Dersch, with his win of the 501 and Cricket Singles at the Las Vegas Open, a feat that had not been done before by any single player. So I decided to delve a little further into Benny’s mind and get some thoughts and feelings from him after learning all of this, gaining the invites to the World Masters over in England, as well as an automatic invite to the qualifier for the Lakeside World Championship, if he does compete at the World Masters.

1. When you won both singles events, how did you feel and what went through your mind about being able to win both that weekend?
How did I feel? Loaded question for sure Anne! To be totally honest, going into the weekend I felt the best I had in a very long time. My expectations were pretty high for myself on the Cricket Singles due to my style of play and the success I had at this same tournament two years ago. As far as the 501 event, I really wasn't sure what was going to happen. Two years ago, I took a top 16 finish losing to Gary Mawson. I scored pretty well, but missed too many doubles. The old saying is for sure true, TRIPLES FOR SHOW, DOUBLES FOR DOUGH! But after I played about 3 matches, I started feeling pretty comfortable (I was hitting doubles) at the line and the results showed just that.

2. When you realized the enormity of the situation, how did you feel after that?
I normally don't get too excited about winning an event, but after I hit the double top for the win, my insides started going absolutely crazy. I'm not one to show much emotion because I feel at times it's like showing your opponent up. Salt on the wound, if you will! So only after I found out that this feat had never been done before (to anyone's knowledge), that was when I really got excited. I also had no idea what was to come from winning the 501 singles.

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3. Do you see yourself doing anything differently as far as the when, where, and how of your play? Will you play more steel tip? Or just practice more?
As far as playing more, I am super excited with the opportunity to play doubles with DAD (Larry Butler) in Virginia Beach, and hopefully, a trip to the Charlotte Open after that as well. I plan on playing as much steel tip as I possibly can this year. Most don't know this about my practice regiments, but I don't own a "soft tip" board. All I have is my steel board at home and that's all I've thrown on for a long time. I actually love the challenge that comes with it.

The last question stems from the invites that Ben will receive as a result of his winning the 501 singles at the Las Vegas Open. Ben will now receive an invite to compete at the WDF World Masters in England later this year against some of the best steel tip dart players in the world. Also, as a result of this win, once he competes in the World Masters, he will receive an automatic invite to compete in a qualifier for the BDO Lakeside World Championships. There will be four spots available from this qualifier, so if Ben can make it that far, he will be competing at the BDO Lakeside World Championships at the end of the year.

4. So this question is.....how did you feel once you learned that you will get an opportunity to compete for a spot at the World Championships?
So after I found out about the invite to the World Masters, I got pretty geeked out. I've done a lot in my dart career (on the soft tip side), but getting just a chance to go showcase my skills "ACROSS THE POND" is definitely something I had never imagined would ever happen. I understand it's only an invite, but I'm going to play my backside off and hopefully take this opportunity and run like hell with it. It's been a long while since I've been excited with darts and this may just kick start my hardcore playing back into high gear! Like I said before, the spot in the World Championships is all just exciting icing on the dart cake! Hopefully I can do well and just keep inching towards bigger and bigger things.

In closing, Benny wanted to also give a huge thanks to his sponsors for helping him to be able to achieve these goals: Dynasty/A-FLOW, L-Style, RedEye Rhino and Ultimate Team Gear.

I know we all want to wish Benny all the best on this new adventure! Good luck, Benny! We will all be following along!

Anne Kramer
www.sleepykramer.com


Darts and the Almighty Dollar

My curiosity is getting the better of me and I have to ask these things otherwise I spend all night awake because my brain refuses to stop thinking.

When we compete in softball, we invest in equipment, pay our money to play league and tournaments without a thought as to where the money was going, who was doing what with it, and the dreaded topic….were they making a profit? We didn’t care because we had a passion for playing the game and competing at the highest level we could. If you play, do you ask the organizers or field owners if they are making a profit? Do you ask them what they do with that profit? Do you demand of them that they should then share some of that profit with you?

Many compete in paintball and end up working their way up to tournament teams. During those years, they invest in equipment, only to invest in better equipment, and continue on as technology progressed and newer, more advanced equipment became available. They never think anything of it because it was a passion that they have to compete and be the best that they could be. And players went to events and paid money to play without a care as to the payouts for winning or the rate of return on their investment to get there to compete.

I bet almost all of us that compete at darts have probably at one time in life competed in some of these other events. So the questions of the day are….why do dart players insist on knowing where all the money goes when someone creates and operates an event that allows you to compete? Why do dart players insist that an event not make a profit?

I recently heard about one such event in South Carolina called Ghost on the Coast, a well-known steel tip dart tournament. The tournament flyer with tournament prize size and payouts was posted many months before the event even happened and people made plans to attend because they always have a fun time there. The organizers that run the event were blasted over the internet multiple times from many sides because their event was so well attended that they made a lot of extra money. It seems the players there thought that they should have put that extra money back into the event payouts.

Honestly, do you play your round of golf, notice it is a fabulous day out, see all the extra people out playing a round that day and go up to the owner of the course and demand that since so many people are out playing today, he should then take some of that profit and offer it back to the players that were there that day? Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? So what makes darts so special that the players have determined that no event should be for profit and no organizer should actually have a positive balance in their account after the event has taken place?

I was talking with Charles at RedEye Rhino about this very subject, which then sparked the idea for this next blog post. It’s not something new. I had done a similar article for a web based darts forum back in 2007. Things are still the same. The mentality hasn’t changed.

Charles wanted to speak particularly about the Premier Cup Amateur Qualifier, which drew 64 players with an entry fee of $50 each. Total for the first event was $3200. It seems that some people are concerned about what is being done with that money.

His replies to my questions were, as follows: “Most players have no regard to the business and its operational cost. For the Saturday event at the Premier Cup, there is blind draw paying out a guaranteed $10,000. Not one person has asked where that guaranteed money comes from or where the $5,000 that is being added to the main event is coming from. Then of course, there is the cost of running the event including, but not limited to venue fees, board rental, travel and hotel cost for the staff, which can run us $8,000 easily. I’m failing to understand why do some dart players feel that every cent is owed to them?”

None of the companies involved in the sports I noted at the beginning of this blog work for free, so why do dart players insist that any companies related to darts have to be a not for profit company? No one in this country in darts should work for free including tournament directors, especially when those directors have to deal with the scrutiny of people who feel entitled or feel that events and leagues should be free. We all know money doesn't grow on trees and neither does the idea of improving darts. From a business perspective, it takes money to make money, and for darts it’s the same thing.... if we want the bigger sponsors they are going to have to make money in order for them to invest. If a company is not making money, do you expect them to stick around? Yet it seems that all dart players are concerned about is if 100% of their money is being paid back to them. Go ask the PGA or PBA that question and see how far you get.

So the next time you catch yourself counting the entries, take a moment to stop and think about the value you are getting for the money you are spending. For a majority of the players today, remember that you are not making a living playing darts. Darts is a hobby and we are being entertained, like all the other sports we participate in. And as with any type of entertainment, you pay to play.

Anne Sleepy Kramer
www.sleepykramer.com


What would you do?

Previously I posed the “Million Dollar Darting Question”. Along those lines, I would like to continue the topic from what would the top players do, to what would we do as a nation and a culture of darters to grow the game in America.

Now all of this is supposition. We start with an idea and expand on it. Yes, it is purely fantasy. But without dreams, where would this nation be?

So, suppose we start with the (large governing body of professional darts) has announced a North American Players Championships Tour. Open to all North American residents only and seeding is based on an already pre-set adequate seeding system already developed. Ten events total, with one in each major city in North America.

Now enter…..The (large governing body of professional darts) North American Player’s Championship Tour brought to you by a major corporate sponsor. The major corporate sponsor has decided to front $50 grand for each event to be the exclusive sponsor and only allow their products sold at the event. Also incorporated into the venue will be a large merchandising area for the major corporate sponsor to sell its merchandise.

Room rates at each venue have negotiated to a decent level by the major corporate sponsor.

Discounted airfare rates have been negotiated with a major airline by the major corporate sponsor.

Entry fee for each player is a set amount…..say….$100.00 each.

Secondary space has also been allocated for a vendor area and the folks at Unicorn, Bottlesen, Puma, Laserdarts, and any other dart manufacturer or sales company, all have a place to set-up shop, introduce us all to their latest products and technology, and allow us the opportunity to meet their sponsored players.

So, with all that being done and laid at your feet as a dart player in America……what are you going to do for them in return? Will you fly the airline? Will you stay at the hotel? Will you buy their major corporate sponsor’s products? Will you visit the vendors, sample their merchandise and maybe buy some of it?

We think nothing of going to the store and purchasing a (major name race car) driver’s hat because we are a fan. We attend (major league/pro team) sporting events because we are fans. We purchase (major title) fights on pay-per-view because we are fans.

You play the game. And we talk so much about it. We want it to grow. We want to see it at a professional level in America.  We want to be able to view it on television. We all want it to happen.

With the old adage in mind…”you have to give some to get some”….what will you do as a dart player to grow the game and support an event, so that it becomes a reality in North America?  Will you be willing to give it all you can to support it? Or will you shy away for one reason or another.


WHO INVENTED THE NUMERICAL SYSTEM?

While this question has crossed the mind of many a frustrated dart player, very few people know the name Brian Gamlin. Mr. Gamlin was a carpenter in Lancashire County, England in 1896. There has long been a claim that the traditional dart board was invented by Bury carpenter Brian Gamlin in 1896. Experts are unsure of this, as the first record of the numbering sequence it uses is from 1916 and the idea that it took the board 20 years to be noticed is a dubious one.

The son of the other man credited with creating the standard board, Thomas William Buckle, said in 1992 that while Gamlin may not have created the standard board, he probably did create the Manchester board.

That said, there are some who say Brian Gamlin never even existed, so mystery remains around the origins of both versions of the game. According to Patrick Chaplin, legend says, that Gamlin died in 1903 however records on Lancashire have no record of this in 1903 or any listings plus or minus 3 yrs. The current number system has remained in place for over a hundred years, but is it the most optimum arrangement?

Enter Science and Math to make the sport better.

A few years ago, a revolutionary new dartboard arrived at the BDO World Professional Darts Championships at Lakeside in Surrey.

The “optimal” dartboard rearranges the traditional positions of the numbers 1 to 20 to make them as mathematically perfect as possible.

In a standard dartboard, low numbers are placed next to high ones, so as to penalize players who miss their targets. That’s why the 20, for example, is next to the 1 and the 5.

Mathematicians have long come up with improved arrangements that maximize the differences between adjacent numbers, in order to penalize mistakes as much as possible.

Now David Percy, Professor of Mathematics at Salford University, has added to the debate by designing a dartboard that adds two more constraints:

1) The numbers go odd-even-odd-even all the way round the board
2) Similar clusters are spread around the board as evenly as possible.

David says the new dartboard will make most difference at the end of a game, when the rules are that a player must finish on a double.

Currently if a player is on an odd number, and therefore needs an odd number to leave himself with an even, he can chose from the southwest sector of the board where four odds are adjacent: 7, 19, 3, and 17

Even a bad player can expect to get an odd number. But if the odds and evens alternate it becomes much more difficult.

Also, the most common finishing double to aim for is double 16, since if you miss the double and get 16, you require double 8. (And if you miss the double and get 8 you require double 4, then double 2, and then double 1.)

On a traditional board 8 is right next to 16, which makes the game easier, since you are already aiming for that section of the board.

The new board is also pleasing to the eye since all the evens are black and the odds all white.

Dartboard manufacturer Winmau has produced prototypes of the optimal dartboard and road tested it with contestants at the world championship.

“It would be lovely if this challenging dartboard were to become the new gold standard,” said David.

Ian Flack of Winmau added: “I think it will be too big a change for the sport, but the whole point of making the prototype is to see the reaction.”


ROUND AND ROUND

I want to talk about board rotation and the longevity of your home boards. We have all been to a friends home or to the corner bar only to find a dart board that has long outlived its usefulness that only a Celtic/Viking funeral pyre can cure.

Quality dart boards are made of natural rope fiber (sisal). These fibers are compressed under tons of pressure and banded with steel, then bonded to a non-warping backboard.

The surface is later sanded smooth and then screen printed with the appropriate colors. Finally, the wires are stapled on and the number ring attached with clips, to allow easy rotation of worn areas.

Most high-quality dartboards are still made in England, home of the sport of Darts. One company, Puma, makes a line of high quality boards in New Zealand.

Note: It is a common misconception that dartboards are made of hair or bristles from pigs, camels, or horses. This is a myth… No such animal fiber boards have ever been made!

In order to maintain long life of your board, you should lightly spray the surface of the board with water, (DO NOT SATURATE IT) the sisal rope fibers will swell keeping a tight surface and reduce bounce outs. Once a month (or sooner for tournament boards or those of heavy use) should be turned counter clockwise 20%. Move the “13” segment to the top, then remove and reset the number ring to its proper alignment.

I practice two or three hours per day and I’m still using the same board for the 2 years now. Boards have come a long way with newer technologies. Some of the best boards I’ve ever used are the Winmau Blade 3 or 4 with ultra thin wires and brilliant color markings.

Get practicing and we’ll see you around town.