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Betting on Darts is much bigger business for bookmakers than many people may realise, and the boom in betting turnover can be traced in no small part back to Sky Sports' heavy involvement in the sport over the past ten years. With the channel picking up coverage of the PDC World Championships for three weeks over the Christmas period (with both afternoon and evening sessions covered in full) the chances are, if you have Sky Sports, you probably end up watching your fair share of darts. The channel also covers the Players Championships in February, Premier League Darts on a weekly basis, as well as the UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts and darts betting now contributes a significant part of bookmakers’ turnover.
Most casual fans probably have a pretty good idea about the Match Betting market and who is likely to beat who. We all know about Phil Taylor, and most probably also know that the key men to challenge “the Power” are likely to play Premier League Darts and have surnames along the lines of Lewis, Wade, Anderson, Whitlock or van Barneveld. It follows therefore that more often than not you’ll have a handy idea about who should be favourite.
When betting on darts, the format of the competition should always be at the forefront of your mind. Almost every major tournament has a slightly different set up, and it’s important to factor this into your betting.
The World Grand Prix held every October, for instance, requires players to start and finish on a double. A player such as Simon Whitlock therefore will relish such a format, because his game thrives on big, accurate finishes, while players who build their game all around the Treble 20, and scoring maximums can find the double start a hindrance to their progress. Generally speaking, the double in, double out format is more conducive to a few shocks, as a top player only needs to find trouble on his doubles a couple of times, for an upset to suddenly appear very much out of the blue.
Backing the underdogs can also be a good idea in certain other tournaments in the opening rounds with a very short format. The UK Open for instance has a straight best of 7 legs format, which can often be decided on a single break of throw, while the World Grand Prix is a race to two sets (best of 5 legs per set), so again, a break can be crucial. The World Matchplay employs a best of 19 legs format, so expect the favourite to be a far shorter price in such a match, and the upsets to be few and far between.
Bookies offer Correct Score betting in darts, and this is a good way for the punter to find a bigger, juicier price. There is, however, a sound approach to betting on this market which you should be aware of when betting on straight leg format matches. “The Throw” is an important aspect of the match, and correct scores are heavily influenced by this with the majority of legs determined by a break or two somewhere along the line amongst a lot of “throws held”. In a nutshell, this means that when backing a player to win by a correct score, the rule of thumb is to wait until you know who won the “bull-off”. If you fancy the player who starts with the darts, you should statistically opt for a correct score which totals an odd number - “5-4”, “7-4”, “6-3” etc, while if you fancy the player who lost the “bull-off”, he becomes more likely to win by an even total score – “5-3”,”7-5” or “6-4”. The reasoning is that the final, winning leg, is statistically likely to be on the throw of the winning player.
Moving on, bookmakers offer plenty of other markets for punters looking to bet on darts, such as players’ averages, handicap betting, and lots of markets on the likelihood of 180s. They also offer odds on the top check-outs in the game, plus match betting on things like the next leg winning checkout and next leg winners.
Looking at betting on 180’s, the most important thing to remember is that winning the match doesn’t necessarily improve a players chances of scoring “maximums”. Remember, if Phil Taylor beats James Wade 17-2, both players have still participated in 19 legs of darts. Add in the fact that Taylor has finished 17 of those legs with a score which cannot be 180, and Wade only twice, and it’s clear to see, that when betting on 180’s, you should largely ignore the match prices, and concentrate only on a player’s prevalence to score the maximum 180’s during matches.
Another piece of market advice concerns “Player Averages” which some betting firms like to offer. These are often priced up based on long term tournament averages, and a clever punter can find an edge on these by considering who the player’s opponent is. When a player plays a better player, he often finds his average creeping up, whilst the reverse is true when playing a weaker player. The reason for this is that when an opponent is winning legs, a player’s average will converge towards his 3-dart average, with missed doubles less likely to drag this average down.
The World Championships are the biggest event of the year, and bookmakers pull out all the stops to offer a competitive service, both in terms of the breadth of markets offered and the prices which they quote. Many firms will offer reduced margin betting as well, meaning that the prices will be more generous. Remember, the longer the format, the better the chances of the favourites progressing – the World Championships are the longest format in the professional game, so its little wonder Phil Taylor has such an exceptional record in the tournament over the past two decades.
An alternative, less high-profile, “World Championship” is run by the BDO which is aired by the BBC and mostly played by semi-professionals.