When you first begin playing darts, you’re going to have to work for a little while to figure out the best dart throwing technique for you. While everybody is a little different and it takes a while to figure out what works best for you, there are a few common rules that will help you to increase your accuracy and improve your overall game.

1. Grip and Aim

The way that you grip the dart is key to how well you throw. The most common problem is that people will grip the dart too tightly, making it more likely that they will throw downward or off to the side instead of straight ahead.

Your grip should be relaxed – just enough to hold the dart and keep it from slipping – and stable. Try not to put too much muscle into holding the dart since this will force your whole arm to tense up and throw off your accuracy. Remember: darts is not a game that requires strength or even a lot of force. All you need for darts is finesse and accuracy. The dart itself will take care of most of the energy needs.

Hold your dart with at least three fingers, but not more than four. Ideally, you should be holding it with the fingers that feel most comfortable for your dart and hand shape. If you’re more comfortable with four fingers but are having trouble getting them all on the barrel, then you can actually try buying a longer barrel that will provide you more room.

Your other fingers should be held up and away from the dart. Closing your hand by putting your additional fingers under the dart or trying to hold with all five fingers is a good way to, again, tense all of your muscles and end up with really bad throws.

If you have several sets of darts like I do, you’ll want to make sure they’re using roughly the same grip as well as the weight. For example, both my soft tip darts as well as steel-tips weigh 21 grams. Consistency is key.

2. Body Position

Once you have your hand right, next work on your body position.

Start by placing your dominant foot forward with your dart hand in front of you. The objective is to put your dart, arm, and eye all in a line to make aiming easier and more accurate. This is also a solid stance that will take pressure off of your body, allowing you to relax without worrying about falling over as a result.

When distributing your weight, try to lean slightly forward as you aim and throw. Not only will this put you marginally closer to the board, but it also helps to keep your arm moving on a two dimensional plane while you’re throwing, which results in a straighter throw. Don’t lean too far, though, or you can put yourself off balance and actually fall forward if you’re concentrating on your shot enough.

On a related note, don’t lift your back leg when you throw. There is an instinctual desire to try and do that because it allows you to get another inch or two closer to the board before releasing the dart by using the back leg as a counterbalance.

The problem with this is that you’re moving forward in an arc aligned with the vertical axis of the dart board. Imagine that you’re looking at somebody throwing their dart from the side and you drew a semi circle in front of them with the ends at their head and feet. If you were to measure where their dart is in relation to the circle, they would probably have their arm someplace between 46 and 70 degrees of the arc. The 90 degree mark will be somewhere around their waist.

Now, as they lean forward, they are getting technically closer to the dart board, but their arm is also moving down around the arc, presumably closer to the 90 degree mark. They’re getting nearer the board, but moving further down, vertically. While this can be compensated for during aiming, if you lift your leg during dart release, you’ll actually be throwing the dart on a lower plane than the one you set up on. The best way to prevent this: keep both feet on the ground.

3. Height and Distance

Fortunately, dart board height and distance are standard, but it’s a good idea to get used to these and start playing at the regulation levels since they’re what you’re likely to encounter while you’re out and about.

According to international tournament rules, the dart board should be placed on the wall at a height of five feet, eight inches from the floor to the center of the bullseye. The throwing line should be seven feet, nine and one quarter inches from the wall that the board is on.

Ultimately, you should place your home board where is the most fun for you, but these are the general measurements you’ll find in bars or tournament play around the world if you want to get used to them.

4. Your Equipment

The first time I ever picked up a proper dart and tried to play the game, I was blown away. See, I started off with a cheap dart board from Walmart that came with plastic darts so that was all I could practice with.

As I got more and more addicted to darts, my partner bought me Centaur 6 Pack Steel Tip Darts for Christmas and it literally took my experience to the next level over night.

This is because you’re going to have more weight and stability to them, a better grip of the barrel, and a myriad of other reasons. I’d say this quick upgrade gave me a 30-40% edge compared to what I was doing before.

And this doesn’t just apply to the darts themselves. Investing in a better dart board goes a long way, especially if you’re noticing a ton of darts bouncing off your current board or not sticking firmly.

Lastly, I used to play darts a lot less due to the noise it would make (we have thin walls and I could only play in the evenings).

My work-around for that was buying an electronic board so I could get more practice hours in. They’re a lot quieter and also take less of a toll on you when playing for long durations. Plus, it’s kind of fun to mix it up and not have to count the score, or even have your spouse/kids join in on the game.