Vegas Agency Exec Hones His Darts Skill to a Fine Point

Hitting the Mark With Pat Carrigan

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Like every serious Vegas player, Pat Carrigan has his rituals. He wears his lucky shirt, the blue one with a red sleeve and a white sleeve. He arrives early to the game to survey the surroundings, the temperature outside and the way the air conditioner is blowing inside. He stretches to loosen up his arm. He grabs a beer.
Pat Carrigan, director of production services at R&R Partners in Las Vegas, is a national dart champion.
Pat Carrigan, director of production services at R&R Partners in Las Vegas, is a national dart champion.

Dart lounge
But Mr. Carrigan, by day director of production services at R&R Partners, Las Vegas, isn't about to hit the baccarat tables like James Bond, or mortgage his house in a poker game at some casino's glamorous high-stakes room. He goes a few miles east of the strip, to CD's Sports Lounge, where he throws darts.

"I love this game," Mr. Carrigan. He should. Not only has he won a national championship, he holds four consecutive titles for mixed doubles play. It led him to his wife of 10 years, a nationally ranked darts player from England, and has netted him about $30,000 in winnings and dozens of friends.

Little respect in U.S.
But he is one of the first to acknowledge darts hasn't been given much respect as a sport, at least in the U.S., where fans -- and marketers courting them -- like big bucks on the line and lots of emotional drama.

Even when he won his championship, playing on a stage before an audience, he was so focused on his performance in the tournament, throwing from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a few 10-minute breaks, that instead of doing an NFL-style end zone victory dance, he demurely shook his opponent's hand, thanked the scorekeeper and sat down on a corner of the stage. "With all that concentrated hand-eye coordination, I was just exhausted," he said.

To make matters worse, a few years ago a sports magazine article painted darts as a "dirty sport," with players "50 pounds overweight, smoking and drinking," he said. "They never gave it a fair shake."

Not that the game isn't without its gore. Occasionally, the point of a dart will fall off the board, prick a scorekeeper and draw blood.

Weekly practice
Like any sport, darts requires discipline; Mr. Carrigan practices seven to eight hours a week and religiously every Sunday night on the dartboard in his game room next to the pool table and pinball machine.

Once at a venue, like a baseball pitcher warming up on the mound, he takes 5 minutes of soft throws to warm up his arm, never initially aiming for a bull's-eye. He uses his custom set of three darts with his name on the flights, the dart's wings. And he always throws in a specific order: red, white and black. "It's a concentration thing," he said.

Beyond his yoga-like focus, Mr. Carrigan said what really makes him excel at darts is his mathematical agility, the same skill that comes in handy at his print production job, because dart games are based on math. He can easily figure out where to aim for points to get him down to a winning zero.

Darts is a sport that also requires sacrifice, he's found. He had to give up bowling because it was too hard on his arm. He's had to exercise self-control with his wife, a Brit nationally ranked, who does not appreciate suggestions.

Evangelist for the sport
Mr. Carrigan, 43, who took up the sport when he was working on print production at the Circus Circus resort in the mid-1990s, is now on a crusade to get darts the respect it deserves. His vision: for his younger children and those after them to be able to start playing and developing skills at Little League age.

To that end, this spring he will help with production of ESPN's "World Series of Darts," to be broadcast in eight one-hour segments starting in July. "We are hoping to get sponsorships," he said, and one day to hit the bull's-eye with popularity for darts akin to poker's newfound glory.

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