“I used to pitch back in the day. I thought it’d be easier to throw a dart 7 feet or so than to throw a ball 65 feet. I’ve been proved wrong.”
-Jim White, Wells Fargo mortgage underwriter and member of The Raleigh Dart League
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Tim Lytvinenko
It’s all fun and games at The Raleigh Dart League, the state’s largest dart-playing group with around 500 amateur dart players. Players form teams of 6-10 people, pick a name and a home bar, and face off every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. more than 25 bars and restaurants throughout the Triangle. “It’s a mid-week break,” says building project manager Chris Moore, who throws alongside Jim White on the One-Armed Bandit team. “I’m the least skilled player, but I get to hang out with my buddies and have a beer. That’s why I enjoy it.”
Moore joined the team a few years ago because of his backpacking friend and neighbor, Lyman Kiser. Kiser joined the league 18 years ago, at about the same time he got married (he posits the timing as more than coincidence). He and his group named themselves after a former captain’s affinity for slot machines in Vegas, and at the time their home base was Players’ Retreat, “the best bar in Raleigh.” As The PR prioritized food service, dart-throwing space got tight: “It was like Cameron Indoor Stadium in there,” Kiser says. Now, they call Proof on Glenwood Avenue home.
Despite the league’s solidly 40-and-50-year-old (and admittedly mostly male) demographic, the schedule – a spring and a fall season – roughly follows the academic calendar. “Wednesday nights are locked in,” Kiser says. Each season concludes with a three-week single-elimination tournament, but that’s not always the end. “Our league is self-contained,” Kiser explains, “but in the off-season, there’s a lot of other dart stuff going on. There are national tournaments. People fly overseas. The top talent in this league can be world-class.”
For the One-Armed Bandits, it’s a chance to check in with friends and check out of the daily grind. Two years ago, Kiser promised the team a lobster dinner if they won the tournament. They did, and he flew to Maine to bring back fresh crustacea.
“I like any game where you drink beer and it’s competitive and there’s a winner,” Kiser says. “But what I like most about darts is that moment when it comes down to one dart to win the match. We call it the glory dart, the one that seals the victory. If you get the chance to throw the glory dart, you jump on it. It’s like being in a play on stage. It’s electrifying. It’s either going to be a good week from then on, or you’ve got a long one ahead of you. Until next Wednesday, anyway.”
The Raleigh Dart League’s website is under construction; search “The Raleigh Dart League” on Facebook for more information.