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Why is it called Cricket?

I learnt the game in Asia in 1974 where it was called 'Mickey Mouse'. It was taught to me by some Chinese dart players. The first time I saw it played in UK was in a London pub in 1978 where it was called "Tactics" and doubles and triples had been added to the numbers.

The first time I heard this game called "Cricket" was in Hong Kong. We were a group of Brits playing darts with some US Sailors who were on shore leave. They wanted to play "Cricket" and we wanted to play "Mickey Mouse". This worked out well in the end as it turned out we were both talking about the same game.

I asked them why they called it "Cricket" but they did not know. They thought it was an English game as it was called Cricket, and we thought it was an American game as it was called Mickey Mouse.

Later, a US veteran who had returned to the far east, told me the game was played a lot on board ship, but was originally played from 20 down to 10 and it was called 'Jiminy Cricket'. Later it was shortened to 20 down to 15 and the name apparantly shortened to just "Cricket".

By 1976 triples and doubles were added after the 15, but this version doesn't seem to have made it back to USA. (see Tactics)

Whatever you call it and whatever version you play, it's still a good game. On the right the basic rules are explained, and also the UK variation called "Tactics", and the lesser known versions of "Short" and "Boomerang Cricket"

Maybe you will find the non USA variations interesting and give them a try.

The Boomerang Cricket Scoreboard.

Above: The Boomerang Cricket scoreboard uses a vertical stroke to indicate a mark (|). This makes it easy to rub marks out when they are subtracted.

Boomerang Cricket has less numbers and no scoring, therefore it takes a shorter time to play.

The Short Cricket Scoreboard

The Tactics Scoreboard

Above: The Tactics scoreboard includes Doubles and Triples (D) (T). This makes the game a little more difficult and also makes tactics and strategy far more interesting.

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Cricket and its variations.

Cricket is a dart game that uses the standard 20 number dartboard with the treble and double rings. It is known by several other names and there are many variations, including "Mickey Mouse", "Horse and Carriage", "Coach and Horses", "The Game", Tactics, "Short Cricket", "Boomerang Cricket" and "Faldo".

Variations of the game use the numbers 15 through 20 and the bull's-eye, or sometimes 10 through 20, and less frequently a predetermined selection of numbers plus the bulls eye.

Cricket Numbers

  • Cricket (USA) uses the numbers 15 through 20 and the bull's-eye.
  • Short Cricket (also called boomerang cricket) uses the numbers 16-19-17-15 and the bull's-eye. If you look at a dartboard you will see these numbers are all in the bottom half of the board and equally spaced.
  • Tactics (Advanced Cricket) uses the numbers 15 through 20 and the bull's-eye. It also requires players to additionally hit three triples and three doubles. The slop version of Tactics allows players to score on any double or triple. In the strict version only the doubles and triples from 15 through 20 count.

Playing the game

The basic aim of all versions of the game is to hit three or more of any number before your opponent does so you can score on it. Once you hit a number 3 times you have CLOSED it.

Hitting the triple will close a number in one throw; a single and the double will close it in two throws or three singles will close it in three throws. Numbers do not have to be closed in any particular order and several different numbers can be hit in the same turn. A scoreboard is used to keep track of the hits on all the numbers. Hitting a number once is shown by placing a slash (/) beside the number, second hit by turning the slash to an X, and the third by a circle (O) around the X.

In most variations of the game, if you have hit any number or scoring item three times and your opponent hasn't, you can start to score on that number or item by hitting it again. Once your opponent has also hit the number three times and CLOSED it, it is removed from play.


The object is for a player to hit each number and the bullseye three times. Doubles count as two hits and triples as three. The first player to hit a number three times owns that number. Further hits on the number score that number of points (e.g. triple 20 gains 60 points) until the other player also hits that number three times and closes it, then that number is removed from play. The double ring scores double the number's value and the treble (inner) ring scores triple the number's value. The outer bullseye ring is worth 25 points and the inner circle (or double bull) is worth 50. Once a player has closed all the required numbers and bull and has equal or more points than his opponent that player wins.

NOTE In the original rules players were required to close 20s before they could shoot at any other numbers, but this rule has been dropped for tournament play in USA.

Cricket Strategy.

Two Strategies for the USA version of Cricket.

Some players who are good at this game say...
The aim is to make your opponent waste darts by trying to close numbers you are scoring on, instead of scoring themselves. To do this best you must "Play the man, not the board".

Other players who are good at this game disagree and say... play tournement strategy. "Play the odds, ignore the man".

Maybe a bit of both is required for tournement success. Well I think so, but I'm not great at this game. :-)

There are two possible strategies. If you are a good player then play "Tournement Strategy". If you aren't play the other strategy. Or you can use your best judgement, based on experience, and go with a bit of both.

1/ Tournement Strategy.

This is fairly simple to explain.

If you have a higher score than your opponent close numbers. If you have a lower score than your opponent try to score.

Example: Let's say your opponent starts with 4 twenties. He/she closes the 20s and scores 20. You should not throw for twenties, you throw at 19s till your opponent closes them or until your score is higher than theirs. As soon as you have the highest score, stop scoring and start closing.

Towards the end of the game check your score. If you are less than twenty-five points in front your opponent needs to hit one more bull than you to win. If you are 26 to 49 points in front they have to hit two more bulls (and so on for multiples of 25). Just keep this in mind. It may be worth scoring a cheap extra 15, or whatever, before aiming at bulls.

Okay, I have to put an opinion in here. It's just my opinion, and cricket isn't my favorite game, so I'm just saying I don't think this strategy works if you can't hit bulls. I can hit bulls so I use this strategy, I very rarely get none with three darts, I often get two or three, during last nights blind draw I hit five, three, and some more.

Anyhow I'm just saying, make sure you are enough bulls in front. If you don't think you are, keep scoring. For example, if you are playing me and your 24 points up, if I've got strike I'd expect to hit 4 bulls in one, two or worst case three throws.

My friend Clive Slater is far better than me at bulls, he will throw at bulls till the cows come home and very seldom misses. If Clive knows you generally play tournement strategy, when he wins the diddle, he closes bulls with his first two darts and takes a shot at 20 with his third just to screw up your strategy.

It's actually the same strategy but he doesn't start with twenties. Best hit per dart (T20/bull) is 60/50, worst hit per dart (20/outer-bull) 20/25 points. Just be aware that it's an option available to bull-hitters :-).

Anyhow, here is the other way to play.

2/ Alternative Strategy.

The main principles are:-

  • Play the man, not the board
  • Don't chase your opponent
  • Keep your score higher than your opponent's
  • Only try to finish the game when you are sure your opponent can't catch up.

Let's assume both players are good and can hit all parts of the board equally well.

In this case, score is everything. To maximize your chances of winning find the highest open number and pound away at it until your opponent closes it. Then move on to the next highest open number and pound away at that.

The only time you should consider trying to close a number your opponent can score on is if they can score massively on it. For instance if you know your opponent hits loads of trip 20s then you might want to close 20s before he does too much damage.

Unfortunately, when both players know how to play this way the game turns into a high scoring contest with no obvious end, and it can be fairly boring. For instance I was playing my buddy in last seasons league and he won with over 1,800 points. I was about 40 points behind. It took a while and slowed up the nights play somewhat.

Beware when using this strategy against weaker players. They might get mad at you for continuing to pound in scores when you are already 500 points up (ha ha).

On a personal note, it's probably best if I admit to bias where this version of the game is concerned. I've been playing the Tactics version for over 30 years and Cricket just doesn't float my boat any more.

Outside USA and Canada, this version is mostly played as a soft tip game.

To make this game even simpler, play it as a race with no scores. Just play first to get three of each number plus three bulls wins.


Boomerang Cricket

This is often considered a game for beginners. It usually takes less time to play than regular cricket and doesn't involve scoring. It is a race. This game involves a greater amount of luck than other variations but it can be a lot of fun even for better players.

Numbers in play are:- 16, 19, 17, 15 and bull.

Players must hit EXACTLY three each of 16, 19, 17, 15 plus any bull to win.

In theory this game can be finished in only 5 darts by hitting T16, T19, T17, T15, Bull, but this doesn't happen very often.

In this game, instead of scoring, you LOSE marks if you hit more than three of the same number.

If a player has already closed a number and accidentally hits another one, a mark is subtracted. If they accidentally hit a triple, three marks are subtracted and for an accidental double two marks are subtracted.

Because marks need to be subtracted, it is better to score each mark with a (|) instead of the normal (/) (X) (O). (see scoreboard example left)

This game is trickier than it first appears. For example, let's say a player already has two marks on 16 and aims to hit a third 16 to close. If they accidentally hit a triple they score three 16s, thus they go up 1 mark but then bounce back down two marks. They end up with only one mark. This 'boomerang" effect gives rise to the game's name.

It is easy to miss what you are aiming at. Keep in mind that the four numbers in play are close together. A player might have already closed 16s and now be aiming at 19s. A slight miss can easily land in 16 and thus they will lose a mark on 16 and have to hit another 16 to re-close them.

Also, as the numbers are all at the bottom of the board, it is easy to hit them by accident when aiming for bull. For this reason, beginners are better off getting rid of the bull as early in the game as possible. Note that if you hit more than 1 bull you do not lose a mark on bulls.

The first person to close all 4 numbers AND hit at least one bull is the winner.

While this is not a game recommended for serious players, beginners and intermediate player might find it a lot of fun, although it can be a little frustrating.

Short Cricket

Usually a game for beginners or for when you only have a few minutes to play a game. It takes much less time to play than regular cricket and doesn't need to involve scoring. It can be played as a race. If you allow scoring then the game is played the same way as regular cricket but with only one bull needed. If you play it as a race then players just need to hit three of each number and one bull, the first to finish wins.

Numbers in play are:- 16, 19, 17, 15 and bull.

Players must hit three or more each of 16, 19, 17, 15 plus any bull to win. No marks are subtracted if you accidentally hit too many of any number.

This game can be finished in only 5 darts by hitting T16, T19, T17, T15, Bull.

Tactics (The advanced version of Cricket)

This game is almost the same as Cricket as played in USA but it also includes Triples and Doubles as scoring items in their own right. There are two versions, 'slop' and 'strict'. Slop Tactics is probably the most popular dart game played in the UK today. The USA version called 'Cricket' is very seldom played, and the strict version of the game takes too long for most players.

The addition of triples and doubles opens up a lot more choices for scoring. It also means you need to develop a stratergy that plays to your particular strengths.

For example, let's say a player has two marks on 19 and is throwing for a third and the other player also has two marks on 19. The first player throws and hits "7, T19, 3". The player now has two choices, they can close 19s and score 38, or they can take a chance, leave the 19s open and score one mark in triples. The second option is risky but may pay off later in the game.

Another example. Both players have closed 20s. You have closed triples but your opponent hasn't. Although 20s are closed, triples are not, so you can still score 60 points by hitting a triple 20. Of course if you miss the triple and get 3 single 20s you score nothing and have wasted three darts.

You also need to play to your strengths. Double bull is the highest scoring double on the board but it is also the smallest. Double twenty is the second highest double but you might not hit it as often as you hit double 16 for example. With triples and doubles in the mix, stratergies become quite complex and you might need to change your stratergy in the middle of a game. If you are up against a very good Tactics player you will probably not understand their stratergy until you've lost.

The tactics in this game are far more complex than in Cricket and you will have to try playing it against an experienced player a few times to grasp them fully. For instance Bull is very often NOT the last item left open on the board. Frequently you will find yourself throwing for doubles or triples at the end of the game. Some players even prefer to take the bulls out very early on.

I have a freind who is excellent at Tactics. We're fairly evenly matched at 501 if I'm playing well, but I've only beaten him 3 times at Tactics and we've played 100s of games. One of his tricks is to take out the bull as soon as he has a higher score than you (which he does in 2 or 3 darts). Another annoying trick he has is throwing 6 or 7 trip 16s or 15s just when you think you have a chance. I once started the game with three trip twenties, a perfect start. I closed 20s and took all 120 points in score. I still lost because he outmanouvered me later in the game and pounded in a load of minor triples. GRRR!

"Slop tactics" V "Strict tactics"

The slop version of Tactics allows players to score by hitting any double or triple. In the strict version only the doubles and triples from 15 through 20 count.

Slop tactics is a great game for intermediate and better players, which it is why it is so popular. It rewards you for near misses. For example. You are shooting for 19s and trying to hit a triple 19, Instead you wire the T19 twice and hit T7 and T3. In slop tactics both these shots potentially score. You can score them as a mark each in triples, or if you have already closed triples and your opponent hasn't, you can score them as 21 points and 9 points respectively. Most players will have fun playing slop tactics.

Strict tactics is far more difficult and can take much longer if you are not a very good player. This version of the game is mostly preferred by top players who can hit triples and doubles easily. If someone suggests playing this game for money or for beer BEWARE!

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