I don’t think there are any wrong answers to this poll. Each option leads to a common double, but each also has some risks.
The most important consideration is that you absolutely must leave 60 or less after the first dart to give yourself the best chance of having at least one dart at an outer ring double.
Pros: You’ve been throwing at the T20 the whole game, so it’s a comfortable shot. A T20 leaves 2 darts at D4 for the win. A S20 leaves 48, which easily leads to D16 or D20 for the final dart. Even missing into the T5 works – a S13 leaves Tops.
Cons: Miss on either side of the 20 (S1, T1, S5) and you’re looking at a Single to leave Bull or a Treble to leave an outer ring Double. Even if you hit the T20, S4-S2 leaves D1 for your return to the oche. I’m not sure I’m in that much of a hurry to get to The Madhouse.
Pros: T16 leaves 2 darts at D10. S16 leaves 52 which is a Single away from D16 or D20. Missing high into the 8 is fine (S8 leaves 60, T8 leaves 44). Missing low into the T7 leaves 47 which is also a Single away from D16 or D20.
Cons: Missing low into S7 leaves 61 and will require a Treble with the 2nd dart or a Bull finish.
Pros: T12 leaves 2 darts at D16. S12 leaves 56 (S16-D20 or S20-D18). Missing into the 9 is fine (S9 leaves 59, T9 leaves 41). Missing into the T5 leaves S13 for Tops.
Cons: Missing into S5 leaves 63 and needing a Treble with the 2nd dart or a S13 to leave Bull.
I’ve used all of these over the years, but I’m now going the T12 route. I prefer to have my first chance at a double be D16 or D20 and almost all of the outcomes of aiming at T12 with the first dart lead there.
While it does come down to personal preference where to throw the first dart, keep in mind that that choice is also deciding which Double you’ll have to hit to win the game. The last dart is much more important than the first.
The results of this poll are very surprising. The top two results, T18 & T20, are actually the two worst options. With 104 left, it’s not about what you’re trying to hit but what happens if you miss. With both T18 and T20, a stray dart into the Single 1 (or Single 5) will leave you with two darts in hand and no chance for a checkout. A path of T18-S18-D16 has the added danger of the second dart joining the first in the Treble 18 for a painful bust.
A better option would be to start with Treble 19, Single 15 to leave Double 16. A miss into Single 7 leaves you with another attempt at Treble 19 to leave Tops. A miss to the right, into a Single 3, is a bit more difficult, requiring a Treble 17 for a Double Bull finish.
The best option is to start with a Treble 16, Single 16 to leave Double 20. An inadvertent Treble 16 with the second dart is no problem at all – just a Double 4 to win. Missing the first dart on either side of the 16 will still leave you with a two dart finish that doesn’t require a Double Bull. Four sixteens, Double Top, safety on both sides…that sounds like the smart way to go, right?
Occasionally, when I point out the dangers of a stray dart, the person I’m talking to will state that they’re not going to miss, which is the right attitude I guess. Unfortunately, even Michael van Gerwin misses the 20 completely with over 5% of his throws at Treble 20. Some top pros miss the 20 over 10% of the time. The average dart player probably misses 20-30% of the time. If there’s a way you can miss and still have a chance to win, isn’t that the smart play?
This site prefers the T19-T19-D18 route, but the poll respondents overwhelming prefer to start with T20. This is fine, but I question staying on T20 with the second dart. Over two-thirds of these players stay on T20 to leave themselves a D15 checkout, which is not considered a favorable out shot.
This chart, from @ochepedia, shows how often PDC players finished on each double in stage matches since December 2016:
Over 14,000 Doubles hit to win a leg and less than 70 of them were on Double 15. Compare that with nearly 900 on Double 18 and it’s pretty clear that the best dart players in the world would rather finish a leg on Double 18 than Double 15. So keep that in mind when you’re building a path to a checkout. By choosing to throw T20 with your first two darts, you’re also choosing to finish on Double 15 over other, arguably better, options.
The better option, in this case, is to finish on Double 18. Since T20-T18 and T19-T19 are both worth the same number of points (114), it’s just a question of whether you’re more comfortable switching from T20 to T18 or throwing both of the first two darts at T19.