Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Principles of counting etc

There's been a few posts on Reddit recently discussing varying strategies for counting - some people getting it, some people missing the point, some people not even being remotely interested in anything that doesn't fit their view of what to do, so for something a bit different I thought I'd wrap up a few things that have been mentioned and a few things I've posted about before in, if not a guide to 501 strategy, more a "things to think about when playing", so without further ado, FRH's 10 part guide to not doing stupid stuff when playing 501:

1) Throw darts at whatever target maximises your chances of winning the leg

This should be obvious, but that's the whole point of the game - it's not to get high averages, it's not to get a high checkout percentage, it's not to try to keep the chance of an outshot alive throughout a whole visit, or even to set up an outshot - it's to throw the darts that give you the most chance of winning each leg. This might be conventional thinking, this might be something unorthodox, and for many players this'll just be a case of scoring as many points as possible, but look through some of the other articles I've posted and think about what you're doing.

2) If your opponent is not on a finish, score

Do not faff about trying to go for bull finishes or taking bull finishes, if you're on something like 128 just hit a straight ton or a 96, don't even think about using the 18's route, don't start on bull on 132 or 135, those sorts of things. Your opponent cannot hurt you, you have six darts at a minimum to win a leg, play as if you'll use them all, set up a proper double, don't come back needing 25 or 14 etc.

3) If your opponent is on a finish that he's not likely to get, score

It's amazing that even when pros will only check out 170 2% of the time, the other pro will start doing crazy stuff just because he might go out next time, even though he probably won't. This is clearly going to depend on the level of your opponent, if you're playing someone in the pub you need not really worry about him killing something in the 90's, but if it's going to take something remarkable relatively speaking for your opponent to check out in the next visit, then don't damage your own chances, if they hit a remote shot, good luck to them. Besides, not going for an out that may damage your chances is fun if they're interpreting it as you saying "you're not going to finish", even if you couldn't care less what he does.

4) Count early and count often

By paying attention to what you're on early in a leg you can stop yourself having problems later on. Let's say we kick off 20-19-T18 to leave 408. Start counting right now. 60 doesn't leave you a route out in six darts. 100 leaves 308, which also doesn't leave you an out in six darts unless you switch straight away and then hit three trebles, or switch later but hit two trebles first. Going for something earlier rather than later to get back on a number where straight 20 throwing will leave you an uninterrupted path to an outshot is usually a good idea. That said...

5) Be aware of your own limitations

If you're on, say, 232, don't start going for the bull last dart having started 20-20 if you're a beginner and haven't hit any significantly large outshot. Just keep hitting the bigger targets unless it's not going to cost you hugely to deviate from the 20's. As a newer player, when in doubt, just score as much as you can.

6) Look to use the bull earlier rather than later when approaching an out

This is a simple one to avoid two things - one, avoiding ending up on an outshot that'd involve a bull finish rather than a finish on a big double - if on 221, and you start two 20's, if you're good enough to have a 156 out in your locker, go bull third dart to leave it (or 131) rather than needing to hit the small bit if you do start two trebles next visit. If taking a 25 rather than 20 to cross a key figure and make your out easier it's usually best to do so, e.g. on 101 last dart you'd want to think about it to bring a single-single-double kill into play rather than being north of 80 and possibly only getting a dart at the bull when you return (and possibly a trickier cleanup if you hit 25 when going for the out). The other point is to avoid downside should you hit bull rather than 25 - if you're on, say, 141 and hit a single 20 first dart, rather than go for the bull last dart in hand, go for it now - hitting treble 20 and then bull leaves 11, if you hit the bull second dart instead to leave 71 with one dart in hand, you can now switch to 17's, 13's etc to still leave a double. If being "too good" on the last dart at bull is going to hurt you then you've gone for the bull too late.

7) Be aware of some key numbers and don't switch if it risks you not crossing them

This works both when finishing and when setting up - it's things like not going the Mervyn King route on 80, as a miss at treble 16 means you don't get down to 60 to still leave a single double out. It's also things like not doing the same on 88, so you can cross under 70 and leave a big number for bull if you need to go for it. This, of course, needs to be balanced against point one - if you've done your maths and know that you finish more often on, say, 90, by going treble 18 and then two doubles, then don't go 20's first just to leave a single darter for bull, you already know your route works better and not crossing a key number is factored into your calculations. Higher up, it's not just trying to get under 350/340, 310/300, 270/260 etc, it's also being aware of things like switching to 18's and not 19's last dart on 358. You're crossing 340 but if you go 19 you do so in such a way that even a 180 doesn't help you. It also works the other way around, like knowing to switch first dart on 271, as four 19's will leave a shot at 25 to leave an out - going 20 and leaving 251 means you need two trebles, a 25 can't help you at any point from there.

8) Your throwing style should dictate whether to split or not

If you've left something like 10 or 38, think about how your darts go into the board. The point of splitting these is to give up one dart at a double to leave an easier one, which you may waste anyway if you hit an odd numbered single going for one. By going straight at it, you only get three darts (assuming we don't hit) if you miss outside every time. If your darts go in like an Adrian Lewis or a Benito van de Pas, is it really an advantage going straight at double 19 when if you miss outside you're probably going to block the bed anyway? It's the same the other way around on double 5 if your darts go in like a Phil Taylor or Dean Winstanley. If you want to go at it, go at it properly. Of course, the other way around, go on the outside - leave a marker to work in if the marker will help you.

9) Most of these points are not set in stone

This is mostly psychological, if you think that hitting a bull out will get things going for you or unnerve the opponent, or you can't hit a certain double to save your life in a given session, then change things up if you think it'll help your game. This just leaves one last tip:

10) Advice from professionals who last played 10+ years ago is probably wrong

Well, the title of the blog should give you a clue... I feel we're a bit at the age where poker was about 15-20 years ago, where newer players were getting the point of the game (e.g. in tournaments they were not interested in concepts of "tournament life") and playing in such a better manner than the older guys that they'll start to accelerate away from everyone else. If an older commentator looks at a younger player's visit and doesn't understand why he's going a certain route, it's likely exactly that - and a part of the reason why you're in the commentary box and the newer guys are still making money at the game.

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