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Beyond just a bar game, darts offers a platform for different cultures to connect and share a common interest…

In the smoky interior of ice Blue bar on Dong khoi, Jesse Gold squares himself in front of the board. By day he’s an english teacher, but at night the assembled crowd sees him in a different light – the reigning darts champion of Saigon. Though the music grooves in the background, onlookers remain silent and still as Jesse lines himself up and stares at the tiny red sliver underneath the number 20 at the top of the board. Standing perpendicular to his target, he sharply inhales before releasing the dart with a smooth, swift movement below the elbow, his body otherwise motionless. The dart arcs toward the dart board before landing squarely in the center of the sliver, denoting a score of 60 – the highest score you can achieve with a single dart. He confidently proceeds to throw his remaining two darts into the same tiny space, as the previously breathless crowd erupts into cheers.

In 1995, Vietnam opened its borders to foreigners, forever changing its cultural landscape. As the social scene began to blossom, expats congregated in a handful of bars which served as central meeting places for the newcomers. Seeking common ground, they turned to a traditional bar game that is accessible, yet involves skill and competition.

“We had a little group of expats back then and we’d get together and say ‘tonight we’ll play at Ice Blue [one of the first darts venues], and next week we’ll play at Gecko.’ it wasn’t a darts league yet, we were just a bunch of friends who liked to drink and play darts,” explains lee Duntan, chairman of the Saigon international Darts league (SiDl).

“You’re in Vietnam. You’re an expat. You speak a different language, the food is different, and the weather is different. It makes sense that you would join a group of people and do something that you all like doing,” he adds.

As the city began to expand and welcome more foreigners, the darts scene gained traction with increasing participation from expats and locals, and in 2002 the league was formed with six teams and eight locations. A lot has changed in the last decade – the league has grown to include corporate sponsorships, charities, and plans for major future expansion.

Diddle for the Middle

Darts is a deceptively simple categories. 501 is all about points – opponents race each other to score 501 points, but they have to end the round by hitting a double – a tiny space on the outer rim of the board. These games can be rather competitive amongst serious players, but the rules can be adjusted to give handicaps to beginners. in order to become proficient in darts, a player must be able to place three consecutive darts in a tiny space – a task that is harder than it sounds.

“I’m sure many people think of darts as just another bar game,” says Zach Moody, the treasurer of SiDl. “But for many of our darters, it’s a decidedly more serious endeavor. It’s a little bit like golf: you’re always pushing yourself to get better, but you never feel that you’ve mastered the game. even the world’s most skilled darters know that they have room to improve.”

SIDl has turned tuesday night into a weekly event in ho Chi Minh City. now with over 300 members, 28 teams, and 20 bars serving as darts venues, SIDl has become the largest regular gathering of expats in the city.

“Right now we have over 30 countries represented in the league,” explains lee. “We have players from Russia, United Arab emirates, Canada, india, pakistan, Chile, America, and the United Kingdom. You name a country and we have a darts player for you.”

The league is not only international in its composition; SIDl sends its top players to compete in international tournaments in Thailand, Singapore, and China. There are even tournaments where players form teams to represent their home country and pit their skills against an array of international opponents. Although the league is comprised of expats from around the world, they are eager to promote darts amongst the Vietnamese as well.

“Vietnam has the second highest number of people of any country in the league, just behind the philippines,” says lee. “Last year we began hosting the first ever Vietnam National Darts tournament with divisions for both men and women. We really want to bring darts to this country, it’s important that we get the Vietnamese involved.”

Triple In, Triple Out

The SIDL has even ventured out of the bar in order to engage in charity work. They work directly with Sister trish Franklin, the wellknown Australian nun who drinks beer and loves Australian football, who runs loreto Schools in Ho Chi Minh City for disabled and disadvantaged youth.

“We host a fundraising event two times a year and get local businesses and bars to donate products for an auction. We have a lot of support for these events and all the money goes to Loreto Schools,” says Bob Wittenbach, secretary of the league.

They are serious about charity work, but game. The two most popular iterations of darts are Cricket and 501. in Cricket, players strive to eliminate the numbers 15-20 by placing three darts in each number, as well as hitting several other their primary objective is to have fun. Both Bob and lee play for a team called Alayah, which stands for “As Long As You Are Happy.” There are other unique team names, like The African Spear Chuckers, Mad House, Those Guys, and a group of Vietnamese women who call themselves ACDC (Asian Crazy Darts Chicks). Although the atmosphere is competitive, it’s always fun and welcoming to newcomers.

Bob explains: “All you need to do to get involved is to go to darts night on tuesday nights at any of the locations we play at. Also, feel free to check out our website [] for information about news, teams, locations, and events.”

This space is dedicated to featuring various special interest groups around the city, some traditional and others not as much so. Would your club like to be featured in Oi? Email us at

Image by NAM QUAN

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