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Friday, April 10, 2009

Oregon Open draws top dart players

by John Foyston, The Oregonian
Thursday April 09, 2009, 7:57 AM
The OregonianTeammates Jim Cosentino and Brian Bauer line up their tosses at the Horse Brass Pub during league dart night.

The snail darter, the tiny fish that stalled construction of a Tennessee dam, was on the endangered species list for a few years; the steel-tip darter, whose range includes Portland pubs and taverns, is thriving.

The Portland Area Dart Association has more than 200 active members, and league night brings out three dozen teams to compete at places around town -- though Southeast remains the epicenter at pubs such as the A&L, the Horse Brass and the Lucky Labrador.

From Friday through Sunday, darters from around the state and the country will convene at the Milwaukie Elks Club for the 40th annual Oregon Open, the longest-running such tournament in the country and further evidence that the honorable old pub game is alive and well in Portland.

They'll compete for more than $10,000, a purse that should attract some of the country's top players. It would've enticed even more had it not been for Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao, the professional boxer and dart enthusiast who started his own $30,000 dart tournament in Los Angeles -- on the same weekend as the Oregon Open.

"Oh, he'll siphon off some of the very top players," said Craig Boughton, the Portland association's league director. "We put out our ads months ago, but there's too much prize money in Los Angeles to ignore. We'll miss out on six or eight of the very best players, but it also means that everybody else will have that much better a chance to win."

Also, you can watch the action for free at the Oregon Open; the Los Angeles tournament charges nonplayers $15. "Spectators are definitely welcome," said Dee Phillips, a lifetime board member of the Portland club who hung her first dart board in her McLoughlin Boulevard tavern three decades ago at the request of some of her Brit ex-pat customers. "They should feel free to ask us any questions at the registration desk, but we welcome new people because we know there's a good chance that they'll say, 'Oh, boy, that looks like a lot of fun,' and we like that."

Phillips still runs a blind-draw tournament on Friday nights at the A&L Tavern and, like most darters you'll talk to, is an enthusiastic ambassador of the game who's traveled nationally and internationally to further the cause.
The OregonianBob Wright and Aaron Poole are the chalkers for a game during league dart night at the Horse Brass Pub.

Though she hasn't gone quite as far as Adam Smith, a Portland teacher. Known as Thorn at online dart sites such as http://sewa-darts.com, Smith started playing a few years ago, won some leagues and tourneys, and took off in 2007 with his wife to live in South America.

"I became an Indy Jones of the darts," he said, "looking everywhere I traveled for boards or signs of the game. I played games in Machu Picchu and the Falklands, interviewed players from at least 15 countries, started an afterschool dart club in Uruguay and gave a board and darts to a Montevideo bar and hostel before I left last summer."

Smith is an inveterate gamer and loves the Zen-like mix of concentration and relaxation required. He likes the social aspect of darting, as well as the motor skills and muscle memory involved -- and he doesn't discount the math. In various games players start with 501 or 301 points and reduce their scores to zero, ending with a hit in the double ring and without scoring more than the number needed. (It's more complicated than that, actually, and a variation called cricket is even harder to follow.) The required mental math is a reason that soft-tip darters, who throw at electronic boards that do all the scoring, often hesitate to try the more traditional game.

Phillips tells the mathphobes to cowboy up: "When they say they can't learn to subtract as they go, I tell them that we all had to learn and we'll help them, that they'll end up loving the game."

The on-the-fly computation does have one effect on Smith: Here in Portland, home of some of the hoppiest, strongest craft beers, he sticks to a pint or two of pale Pabst Blue Ribbon when he's shooting.

Summing up: 40th annual Oregon Open

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday-Sunday

Where: Milwaukie Elks Club, 13121 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.

Admission: Free for spectators

Some dart jargon: Bag o' nuts: Scoring 45 points in a throw (three darts); barn darts: when the third dart of a throw hits the intended target of your first two; bed and breakfast: Brit term for scoring 26 points in one throw; Robin Hood: when you throw a dart into the back of one already in the board

Only in Portland: A recent dart toss at the Horse Brass decided the strength and style of beer that each of 20 Oregon brewers will make for May's Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers festival

Web site: www.portlandareadarts.com

-- John Foyston: 503-221-8368; johnfoyston@news.oregonian.com
(Story source...) More posts about the Oregon Open....
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