Darting Dreams: The Unsung Heroes of the Darts World Championship Qualifiers

Updated: 137 Darts

Dive into the data-driven journey of Darts World Championship qualifiers as they aim for the coveted trophy. From underdog victories to statistical insights, explore the stories of darts' determined contenders

Darting Dreams: The Unsung Heroes of the Darts World Championship Qualifiers
Matthew Edgar Darts Editor and WDF Professional

Former PDC Darts Professional, SkySports Darts Commentator and YouTuber with 6 tournament wins under his belt including the Iceland Open in 2023

As the tension builds towards the 2024 Darts World Championship, darts enthusiasts eagerly await the performances of the qualifying hopefuls. With an in-depth analysis of past qualifier showdowns, we highlight their triumphs and challenges. Whether you're a seasoned darts fan or new to the spectacle, this article offers a comprehensive view of the sheer determination and precision that ignite the stage at Alexandra Palace, promising you insights that could change the way you watch the game and your darts predictions for the early rounds.

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Darts World Championship Qualifier Performance

As the 2024 edition of the Darts World Championships waits just around the corner, the focus will be on the 96 men and women who will soon attempt to once again be crowned king or queen of the festive arrows.

Last year it was Michael Smith who got the better of Michael van Gerwen in one of the sport’s greatest ever finals and this year, these two protagonists are expected to be at the sharper end of proceedings.

Michael Smith, Last Years Champion -
Sven Mandel, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Something that is not to be unexpected when you consider that last year’s finalists are the number one and number two seeds respectively and anything less than another final appearance would be considered as disappointment for either party.

While if these two darting superstars at the top of the rankings when it comes to seeds, there are still 94 other players that need to be factored into the equation and although it would be easier to shine a spotlight on the likes of Luke Humphries and Peter Wright, we are going to move down the list.

Will Michael van Gerwen go one better this year?
Sven Mandel, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


So far down the list that we are going to the very bottom and with 32 entrants earning their championship berths by virtue of international qualifying tournaments, names such as Marko Kantele and Paolo Nebrida will dream of global glory at the oche. 

At the same time, that dream could become a nightmare if they are dumped out at the first time of asking and with this in mind, we have decided to look at the performance of those players who have had to qualify to even get to Alexandra Palace,

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Since 2019, the Darts World Championship has comprised of 96 total entrants. The top 32 in the Order of Merit are afforded automatic passage to the Second Round and this means there are no banana skins for the likes of Smith, van Gerwen and Wright to slip on.

However, the same cannot necessarily be said for those players who have only qualified through the Pro Tour Order of Merit. If you are one of these 32 entrants, you will be paired with a respective international qualifier.

The shock may not be seismic but at the same time, the shock can most definitely be on and we are going to look at the fortunes of the international qualifiers in the 96 entrant era of the PDC World Championship.

Year Non Q Q Non Q Progress Q Progress
2023 21 11 65.63% 34.38%
2022 27 5 84.38% 15.63%
2021 23 9 71.88% 28.13%
2020 18 14 56.25% 43.75%
2019 22 10 68.75% 31.25%
TOTAL 111 49 69.38% 30.63%
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Over the past five years (2019 to 2023), there have been 160 First Round matches where a Pro Tour Order of Merit and an international qualifier pairing have squared off at the oche and the top line figure sees 111 of those go the way of the non-qualifiers.

111 wins for those representing the Order of Merit, 49 for those representing the qualifiers. This means the qualifiers currently have a 30.63% success rate when it comes to First Round matches – three in 10 to simplify things further.

🌟 Underdog Triumphs at the Oche! 🎉

Over the past 5 years, qualifiers showed they could hit the bullseye against top players, boasting a 30.63% success rate in first-round matches! 💪 That's about 3 in 10 qualifiers creating major upsets!

Therefore, a success rate of nine is the approximate benchmark in terms of qualifying success, but as we know with any kind of sporting statistic, year on year activity is never that linear and we can also take a look at the individual performances from 2019 to 2023.

The watermark for qualifier progress was back in 2020, as no fewer that 14 of the 32 First Round matches landed in their favour. Admittedly not a majority, but the nearest they would get in terms of earning parity with their Order of Merit counterparts.

A 43.75% success rate that year and nearly 10% more than the second most successful year out of the five. That year was the most recent and in 2023, 11 of the 32 First Round matches saw a qualifier advance.

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2020 and 2023 are two of the three years where the benchmark has been beaten and the third of those was back in 2019. That was the year in which 10 out of the 32 qualifiers managed to advance to the next stage of the championship.

Three years beating the benchmark, 2021 was the year in which the benchmark was met. That year, only nine of the 32 First Round clashes went the way of the qualifier but even with a success rate of 28.13% it was still almost double the year after.

If 2020 was the success story for this data sample, then 2022 must be considered the nadir. 32 pairings as before, only five qualifiers would manage to work their way out of the First Round and into the next at Ally Pally.

If we look at the overall success rate, we can see that there is approximately a 30% chance of a qualifier making through to the Second Round of this year’s Darts World Championships and armed with that information, it may allow punters the opportunity to squeeze value out of the bookmakers.

In addition to this, we can also track the performance of each of those 160 qualifiers and although 111 were sent packing at the end of the First Round, there are still 49 success stories to filter through at the same time.

First Round Second Round Third Round Fourth Round
2023 21 11 0 0
2022 27 4 0 1
2021 23 8 1 0
2020 18 11 3 0
2019 22 8 1 1
TOTAL 111 42 5 2
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Of those 49 qualifiers that moved onto the Second Round, 42 would then see their journey stop there. While it was not good news in 2023, as each of the 11 qualifiers that delivered an upset in the First Round then ended up being upset themselves.

No further progress in 2023 for the gang of eleven. A sign that maybe those at the sharpest end of the seedings are getting even better in their pursuit of World Championship glory and are in no mood for handing out early Christmas present.

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A trend that we can only see is continuing come the end of the 2024 edition of the championship and if no qualifiers are making it through to the Third Round and beyond, they may have to raise their game in 2025 and beyond.

While 11 qualifiers also made it through to the Second Round in 2020 but this was the year in which the news was even better. Remember 14 qualifiers made it out of the First Round, three of them would make it all the way to the Third.

The trio of Seigo Asada, Nico Kurz and Fallon Sherrock would reach this stage and the latter would make history by being the first woman to beat a male counterpart at the PDC World Championships when she disposed of Ted Evetts in the First Round.

Will Fallong Sherrock continue to make Darts history?
Sven Mandel, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

While Sherrock’s momentum would only continue further by the time 11th seed Mensur Suljovic was brushed apart in the Second Round. Unfortunately, 22nd seed Chris Dobey would serve as Alexandra Palace partypooper in the Third Round.

If Sherrock made history in 2020, then both 2019 and 2022 deserve special mention at the same time. Two separate World Championship events and two separate cases where a qualifier has made it all the way through to the Fourth Round.

In 2019 it was Devon Petersen who reached unchartered territory after getting the better of English trio Wayne Jones, Ian White and Steve West in respective rounds – come the Fourth Round, another Englishman in the shape of Warren Aspinall would finally end the South African’s dream of success.

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While 2022 was the year in which Australian Raymond Smith would emulate Petersen’s efforts of three years prior. Coincidentally, the two would meet in the Second Round after Jamie Hughes had already lost to Smith in the First Round.

Petersen would eventually go the same way as King and also the same way as Germany’s Florian Hampel in the Third. However, 21st seed Raymond Smith would eventually get the better of the Australian and end this qualifiers’ incredible story.

Now that we know the numbers when it comes to Round progress, we can also get a better idea of how this looks from a percentage point of view:

First Round Second Round Third Round Fourth Round
2023 65.63% 34.38% 0.00% 0.00%
2022 84.38% 12.50% 0.00% 3.13%
2021 71.88% 25.00% 3.13% 0.00%
2020 56.25% 34.38% 9.38% 0.00%
2019 68.75% 25.00% 3.13% 3.13%
TOTAL 69.38% 26.25% 3.13% 1.25%
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As we know 69.38% of the 160 qualifiers involved since 2019 have been dumped out at the first attempt but is also some reason to be cheerful and just over a quarter – 26.25% have managed to make it to the Second Round.

42 of the 160 before the start of the 2024 World Championships. This means you have just over a one in four chance of being a qualifier who makes it through to the Second Round of this year’s Championships.

From there, it is a marked drop off and if you are a qualifier who is looking to make it to the Third Round, then you will have a 3.13% chance of making it through as just five of the 160 qualifiers have made it this far.

Odds that decline even further and with Devon Petersen and Raymond Smith being the only qualifiers to make it to the Fourth Round, there is a one in 80 chance or 1.25% of similar progress happening in 2024. 

Odds that 16-year-old Luke Littler would have only laughed at before the most recent edition of the championships and after beating Christian Kist in the First Round, not even he could have predicted the path he would soon go on.

A path that took the teenager all the way to the final and although he missed out on outright glory, the Warrington-based starlet has certainly changed the sport forever and perhaps opened it to a brand new audience.

Although it was not a good year for qualifiers overall, it only needed one to make the headlines. Just like three years ago, only nine non-seeded players would move onto the Second Round. Of those nine, four journeys would end there.

Five qualifiers still in the mix by the time the Third Round got started, four gone by the time it ended. Which left Luke ‘the Nuke’ Littler to not only reach the Fourth Round but pulverise former champion Raymond van Barneveld in the process. The Dutchman swept aside, the same could be said for both Brendan Doland and Rob Cross in the Quarter and Semi-finals respectively. Then only Luke Humphries stood in the way of completing this incredible World Championship story. Unfortunately, the final chapter did not have a happy ending, as ‘Cool Hand’ Humphries would go on to claim a first world crown for himself in another pulsating final and a pulsating tournament overall – one that shows that even qualifiers can go all the way.

Contributor and Source Information

Dan and Matt have collected this really insightful data to give us a perspective in the fate of qualifiers at the World Championship and discovered some angles that we might not otherwise have been aware of

Dan Tracey

Data and Words

Dan Tracey is a multi-talented writer, data analyst and podcaster whose six-year career in the sports data sphere has seen incredible successes. From helping UEFA create their annual technical reports to writing articles for Sports Betting Websites including sites like TheLinesUS and Goal - there's no shortage of areas where his expertise shines through! In addition, he can be heard on podcasts lending an insightful voice as well as providing weekly betting angles - all culminating with him teaming up OLBG.com in the present day. Simply put: wherever you find angled data being crunched? You'll also likely find Dan not far behind!

👨‍🏫 Specialist Subjects🔬📚

Dan's specialist area is data; and lots of it! Wherever we need numbers to create our unique deep dive articles, Dan is our go-to. Dan is also a Tottenham Fan and a football commentator for Newcastle Blue Star

- Dan Tracey, Data scientist and football editor

Matthew Edgar

OLBG Sponsored Darts Professional

Matthew Edgar, born on August 28, 1986, is an English professional darts player currently targeting the WDF World championships at Lakeside in December 2024 and commentating on Darts for Sky Sports. Known for his practice sessions with former world championship runner-up Kevin Painter, Edgar began his sports career as a coach for Northampton Town before shifting to darts. Prior to his darts career, he trained in mixed martial arts and was a professional wrestler. Edgar also hosts a dedicated darts YouTube channel, "Edgar TV," where he interacts with followers and shares his professional competition experiences.

Follow Matthew as he targets Lakeside and the WDF World Championships in December 2024.

- Matthew Edgar, Darts editor and wdf professional

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_PDC_World_Darts_Championship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_PDC_World_Darts_Championship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_PDC_World_Darts_Championship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_PDC_World_Darts_Championship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_PDC_World_Darts_Championship

Data correct as of 4th December 2023

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