The number of women playing in the HDPA has increased in the past few years. Michelle Samarel, captain of Oddfellow's II, was formerly on Duffy's III team which had seven women and two men. She has been playing for four years and nicknamed her team, "Team Fun."
"Being a female in the league has its advantages," said Samarel. "I think when you play a man they don't expect you to play well."
Faye Carlson-Mackenzie from Duffy's III has played in the league for five years. She doesn't find being a female player to be an advantage or disadvantage.
"It's usually the guys who focus on that sort of thing," said Carlson-Mackenzie.
Jenn Repetti, who is a member of Duffy's III, has played for three years and thinks that guys are intimidated when they play a woman.
Sara Schkade plays for Scotland Yard II and has been playing for four years. Schkade has the distinction of being the only woman to score a 180 during a 501 match.
According to Samarel, Schkade has a good reputation in the league and is a very good player.
Schkade said when she started playing darts four years ago there were only a handful of women playing. "I think it has become more appealing to women to come out and play and that's a good thing to see," said Schkade.
Melanie Buletti plays for the Shannon and is the only female player on her team. The Shannon was in first place for most of the season and then finished in second place. According to Buletti, she puts a lot of pressure on herself as the only female player.
"I would say that all the girls in [Conference] B are really good players," said Buletti. "My team is very good. I play with them all and I know I hold my own with them."
Battle of the Sexes
So how do the men react when a woman beats them? Is it just a friendly match or is it a cutthroat game?
According to Carol Ann Diskin, who plays for Scotland Yard II, when she beats a man there is usually a cold, stiff handshake with a half hearted nod that is followed by a lot of not so discreet swearing under their breath.
"It makes the game a lot more interesting when both sexes are involved," said Diskin. "Nobody expects you to do well so there isn't a lot of pressure to win which makes it more fun."
"There are certainly some guys who are intimidated by playing a female and definitely react poorly to being defeated, however they are few and far between," said Buletti.
Whether or not she wins or loses, Buletti takes it all in stride.
"I have beaten a lot of guys, but there are definitely many guys that are better than me," said Buletti. "I really enjoy playing stronger players because it improves my game."
Top-ranked Schkade said that she almost always gets respect from the men.
"Now that I know quite a few of the men in the HDPA, and they know who I am, the reaction I most commonly get is, 'Oh no! I have to play against her?' Of course, it's all in fun, and we just have a great time together during the game," said Schkade.
Carlson-Mackenzie thinks that most of the men are all pretty cool but said there are some insecure types who take the game way too seriously. Yet most of the women agree that the majority of the guys are respectful if they lose and will almost always buy the women a victory beer.
Not a bad way to end a game.
The thrill of victory
Of course, it's not always handshakes and beer. The women agree - they just love it when they crush their opponent.
Samarel recalled her most exhilarating dart moment during the 501 tournament at the Elks Lodge.
"It was the last game of the tournament and we only needed to double out," said Samarel. "I needed a double 16 and hit a single 16 double 8 with one dart remaining. Damn that felt good!"
"[I was] playing 301 and my [male] opponent needed a double to get out and I wasn't even in yet," said Repetti. "Somehow I won that game. Of course my opponent wasn't very happy. He lost to a girl!"
Schkade tried to keep her cool when she won her ground breaking game with the score of 180.
"I scored a 180 during my 501 match," said Schkade. "I was just in awe and had to remember to try to finish the game! My teammates and the bar went nuts. It was pretty exciting to say the least. I think I'm the first woman in the HDPA to get a 180 in the league's history."
Buletti recalled a winning match of cricket this season at Dipper's.
"After I won he walked over to the guys on my team and said, 'I just played the best game of my life and she kicked my ass,'" said Buletti. "It was really cool of him to say that."
There are many skills required to excel at the sport. A player must have good balance and eyesight, the ability to concentrate, and they have to be resilient enough to shake off a few bad throws so it doesn't throw off the entire match.
Yet none are as important as having the right fit with your darts.
As any seasoned dart player knows, darts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. How a dart fits in the hand is almost as important as the throw.
"The length of my darts is what's known as the in-between length," said Schkade. "The weight of my darts is 23."
"[My] preferred dart is light with a long shaft and fat enough to get a good grip," said Diskin.
Carlson-Mackenzie prefers darts that are long and about 28 ounces. "I like to throw heavy darts because that's what I learned on," said Carlson-Mackenzie.
Repetti throws long and slender darts because they are easier to maneuver.
Samarel plays with heavier darts that weigh 26 ounces. "I prefer a dart that's long and has a thick shaft," said Samarel. "That's just the way I like it."
In addition to playing in the league once a week, most of the women practice several times to raise their skills. According to Buletti, the games are a great social opportunity.
"I would encourage more people to play," said Buletti.
Samarel joined the league four years ago for social reasons.
"I love to play and I love to win," said Samarel. "But mostly it's just a really fun night to play darts and hang out with a great group of people."
To find out more or to find out how you can join visit: www.hdpa.net.