From Doubling Down to Doubling Out: An Interview With American Dart Pro Danny Delfino

Darts by and large has a stigma of being a game for old men or for people like me who haven't quite caught on to the fact that they aren't a kid anymore.

This stereotype however is simply not the truth as darts truly is a game for all ages as can easily be attested by the rise of younger players, whether it be a Michael Van Gerwen or Zoe Jones in the UK/Europe dart scene or a North American like Soft Tip up and comer Danny Delfino can most certainly attest to that.

Danny was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk with us.


1. You are familiar with the world of Pro Poker as well as pro darts. Do you think there is a natural relationship between these two games, and do you think the association if any is a healthy one for both games?

David, this is a tricky question. I don't think there is many similarities. The only one I can think of that is a direct similarity is mental endurance. As I have gotten better at darts, I have realized that forcing yourself to focus/concentrate on every single dart over a whole weekend can being very draining on the brain. Its the same thing in poker, especially tournament poker. The other thing that comes to mind outside of actual playing of the game of darts, is once your at a level where you are trying to make money playing a game, you must have good money management skills, just as in poker. Going to tournaments and partying and drinking in excess can drain your winnings, which I have been known to do many times. Lol

You went from being good at darts very early on to being made to 'look like a chump'. Did knowing you were decent right off the bat make it easier to pick yourself up and do what was needed to be better than ever, or did it make it even harder to swallow?

Well David, with everything I have ever done, I have taken very seriously and worked very hard at it. The biggest thing is growing up, I didn't lose much in anything, and when I did, it made me try even harder to never lose again. When I played football, I wanted to be the biggest, fastest, and strongest. So I made sure I worked my tail off to achieve that. After getting hurt, I had to find something else to compete at. I grew up around the golf course so I started playing golf again. All my friends who I grew up golfing with were now a lot better than me. So I hit 500 balls a day on the range and spent an hour on the putting green. The same thing has carried over to darts. In California, I only played 2-3 times a week and never lost, so I didn't practice much. When I moved to Chicago about a year ago, that was not the case. I wasn't as good as I thought and needed to get better. I couldn't win. I've been playing darts for a little over 4 years now, but only been actually practicing since I moved here to Chicago. These guys are good! I am probably borderline psycho when it comes to my dedication for something I want to get good at. I promise you, if I don't become one of the best dart players, it's not going to be from the lack of trying!

I think we'd both agree that darts is a great game. Is it a sport? Olympic worthy?

I do think it is a sport. I would love to see darts in the Olympics, but there is many variables involved that would make it difficult for that to happen.

What is the secret of darts that Bob Bettis passed on to you? (I have money riding on the answer being 'telekinesis').

When I met Bob, I had only played darts very seldom. He immediately saw some talent in me and took me under his wing. I lived very close to Bob, and would go over to his house and practice with him for hours. He taught me the strategy of the game. Through Bob, I met Steve Brown. Steve and Bob would talk to me about outs and set up's and I would learn so much from the two of them. I couldn't believe how in depth the game of 501 was.

Here in Canada (Toronto at least) we don't have much in the way of soft tip. For me the idea of coin operated darts puts me off, as does the lights and noise (although the doing the math for you bit is quite awesome). Why do you think soft tip might catch on with the bars and players here if given a chance?

After about a year of playing darts with Bob in Little Rock, I moved back to California where everything was soft tip. I always have liked steel tip better but had to play with what I was offered. This new "online" play is really a big hit and people are going nuts over it. I really see a lot of people pumping so much more money in the boards just to play against people online. Dartslive is also doing wonderful things in the world of darts. What Dartslive has done better than anything else I have seen (in the soft tip world), is the marketing and promoting of their product. It is kinda like the PDC and BDO. I think it is quite obvious which company has done a better job marketing their product. Dartslive owner Steve Ngu really is a genius. His vision of where he wants soft tip darts to go is rather amazing! I have heard some rumors about where Steve wants Dartslive to be in five years, and it is completely mind boggling.

How have your practice habits developed? Do you follow the same routine you did when you first started out?

. Like I said, I really didn't take practice too seriously until I moved to Chicago. For the first 4 months of moving here, I literally just threw at the triple 20 for 4-5 hours a day, trying to get my grip, form, and release correct. After I found my form, I started working on actual practice. Until about a month ago, I would just play games of 501 against myself, and work on doubles here and there. I would practice soft tip with my good friend Mike Maloney, and we both push each other to our max potential every time we play. I have become really good friends with Ray Carver as well, and we practice quite a bit together. It's awesome to have good practice partners who push you to throw your best every time. About a month ago, I discovered www.dartproleague.com, which is a way to play against other people via webcam. I have gotten some amazing practice in and it has made a huge difference in my game. I have been playing against Jeff Smith, Ken McNeil, and many other great shooters from all over the world. In fact, I believe you may know a few players from Ontario that I play against on a daily basis. Gerald Gillcrist and Ed Roberts? I strongly suggest everyone check this website out. Even if your a beginning player, there is plenty of players for everyone.

How long have you been sponsored with Dart Brokers and how did that happen?

I have been sponsored by Dartbrokers since May of 2012. After I did rather well at the NDA soft tip tournament in Vegas, and being selected to Team USA, Thomas Schude from Dartbrokers offered me a spot on the team. I have to say Thomas is an awesome person, he really takes good care of his dart players. He also works very hard at running the the biggest dart supply company around. If you haven't checked them out yet, please do.

Now that you are playing against some of the best in the game , who do you look up to? Who inspires you?

Well obviously everyone in this game looks up to Phil. If they say they don't, they're lying. You have to respect how hard he has worked and everything he has accomplished. As far as guys here in the states that I play against every weekend, there are too many guys to name. I have became such good friends with so many accomplished players.

You played a bit of baseball it seems. Which do you think is harder, throwing 180 scores in darts or hitting a 90 M.P.H. fastball?

It's funny you bring this comparison up. I have a little brother who is a senior in high school and couple years ago I took him to the batting cages and we set the machine up for 90 mph. It had been ten years since playing baseball and at first I couldn't touch the ball, but after about 15 pitches I started hitting the ball. I think if its just hitting a 90 mph fastball, the two are very similar, however if you add the possibility of a great change up or breaking ball, I would say hands down hitting a baseball is much harder. I know Gordon Dixon is going to give me a hard time about this one! Ha ha

Why darts over poker?

This is a very easy answer. You are in control in darts. In poker you can play absolutely flawless and still lose. Also, in poker its not a very comfortable feeling having a couple thousand dollars in the middle of the pot and waiting for the dealer to turn the cards. I am not kidding at all when I say I have literally gotten sick and vomited from losing a hand of poker. Like I said, anything I have ever done, I have wanted to be the best and let it consume my entire life. When I played cards, I would study the game, constantly discussing and dissecting the way certain hands should be played. I was also making sure everything I invested into it had a positive "E.V." (expected value) I would play cards 15 hours a day. Now I have absolutely zero desire to play cards. My life is consumed with darts at the moment. It's all I do and think about. My fiancé and I are getting married and discussing children, so I am sure darts will slow down once that happens, but until then, I WILL NOT STOP!

(Thank you David, I hope you enjoy my answers.)

I hope you have all enjoyed Danny's thoughtful and candid answers and that all of you just starting out playing darts or maybe even thinking of taking the game up have a little more insight into the game at the top levels and what it takes to get there.

I also hope you will check out my largely darts focused blog..

The Best Lack All Conviction

Thank you all for reading.

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