Darts Betting 1
THE GOLDEN AGE OF DARTS WAS IN the late 1970s and early 1980s when if you peered through the smoke haze on stage you could just about discern giant figures in ill-fitting shirts throwing slivers of tungsten at a wall 7ft 9-and-a-quarter inches away.
From a betting perspective, however, the golden age is unfolding right now thanks to Sky TV's coverage of a sport that had fallen into decline. Relics of the past like John Lowe and Cliff Lazarenko are still on the circuit along with a new breed of star names, while five-time Embassy world champion Eric Bristow is a mainstay of a Sky commentary and analysis team that majors on betting.
Bristow is a punter so a main task in his darting afterlife has been to offer match-betting advice during the handful of tournaments that Sky broadcast so impressively, and that's largely because the Professional Darts Corporation's three flagship events that Sky cover are sponsored by bookmakers.
In mid-summer there's the Stan James World Matchplay from Blackpool, then the Paddy Power Grand Prix in Dublin followed by the blue riband competition in the PDC calendar, the Ladbrokes.com World Championship from the Circus Tavern in Purfleet.
The patronage of Sky and the bookmakers has been crucial to a sport that was in danger of retreating back into the pubs and clubs in the early 1990s, with new money and new players ready to entice a new generation of youngsters on to the oche.
Throw in the fact that the BBC also cover the rival British Darts Organisation's two key tournaments - the Lakeside (formerly Embassy) World Championship and the Winmau World Masters - and darts punters have never had it so good.
THE TOURNAMENTS TV executives and the game's governing bodies must be congratulated on ensuring every competition is different.
Partisan punters can never therefore complain about lack of opportunity for a bet and the following is a rundown of the major tournaments and their differing formats.
Ladbrokes.com World Championship The PDC's New Year spectacular where the world's top 32, plus eight wild cards and eight qualifiers, do battle over sets, culminating in a best-of-13 set final.
Lakeside World Darts Championship The BDO's flagship, once known as the Embassy and played at the widely acknowledged 'home of darts', the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Surrey. Also contested over sets between the BDO's top 25 players plus qualifiers.
Budweiser UK Open Back to the PDC and their FA Cup of darts. Seedings are decided by performances in qualifiers and not the world rankings with 128 players competing in legs-only straight knockout.
Las Vegas Desert Classic To Nevada where a series of eliminators earn 16 play-off winners and four North American qualifiers the right to join the top 12 in a knockout competition over sets.
Stan James World Matchplay High summer in Blackpool and the PDC's top 28, plus four qualifiers, toe the oche in a legs-only shootout.
Paddy Power Grand Prix Dublin in the autumn for the PDC's top players, plus qualifiers from Britain and Ireland, to compete for the only title in which legs are double-in, double-out.
Winmau World Masters A colossal event featuring more than 150 players from all over the world, separated into 16 groups with one of the BDO's seeds per section. Knockout from the last 16 onwards.
The different formats may mean a slight tweak to the darts punter's shortlist or his staking plan, though by and large it's the same figures who attract the money and the only discernible adjustment the layers make depending on how each tournament is devised is to ease Phil Taylor in what are perceived to be slightly more random, short-format events.