If you go
› What: Choo Choo Classic: 33rd annual steel-tip dart tournament
› When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 20
› Where: Pier 2 at the Landing, Chattanooga River Boat, 201 Riverfront Parkway
› Admission: ?
› Online: www.gcda.org
In a couple of weeks, Joe Chaney will be throwing darts.
And throwing darts. And throwing darts.
In other words, a ton of darts.
"Yes, it is," Chaney says.
And it's not just for fun and beers.
Chaney, who lives in Chattanooga and is the No. 1 ranked male dart thrower in the country, will be among the nearly 250 throwers from around the U.S. set to compete in the annual Choo Choo Classic starting Friday, Nov. 18. Throwers will compete in matches of singles, doubles and mixed triples for a total purse of $12,500.
Two other Chattanooga residents also will be competing: Sandy Hass, Chaney's fianceé, the No. 10 ranked woman in the country, and Lisa Ayres, who's ranked No. 3.
The tournament will be either the eighth or the ninth straight weekend Chaney will have competed in a tournament somewhere. He's not sure of the exact number because he's thrown in 31 tournaments this year and will be going back to England at the end of the month for more.
"I've been to California, Vegas, New York, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Boston, Canada and a few other places," he says.
There are 12 competition categories at the Choo Choo Classic and Chaney will compete in all of them. Each best-of-three match will have between six to eight rounds.
But it's not just about competition and money, Chaney says. The tournaments, like league play matches overseen by the Greater Chattanooga Dart Association, are also about socializing, he says.
"I really want people to know about this tournament and the league so they'll come check it out," Chaney says. "It's important for people to get involved and know these things can be done."
This is the 33rd year that the Choo Choo Classic will be held here, and Greater Chattanooga Dart Association District Representative Mike Thompson says it will fill up the space with games. The association has between 300 and 400 players in any given year, he adds.
"We pretty much monopolize the second floor and push business to the third floor," he says.
The tournament is primarily for superior throwers, but there is a blind draw where an average player could "get paired with one of the best," Thompson says.
Many players, like Chaney, will compete in multiple events and, when all is said and done, the tournament will have about 1,000 entries in such dart games as Cricket and 501.
For those unfamiliar with competitive darts, Cricket involves hitting the numbers 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and the bullseye three times, a task known as "closing out." On the outer ring of the dartboard, the small spaces at the end of numbered categories count as two hits and the inner spaces on the numbers count as a triple. The bullseye is a double hit, while the green area around the bullseye is a single.
In 501, players start at 501 then subtract the point total of the number they hit with each dart. To win, players must double out, meaning they must hit a double (outer ring) of the exact number that would take their total to zero. For example, a player who has 40 points left must hit a double 20 at the top of the dartboard to win.
"The best games would be in the 12 to 15 number of total throws," Thompson says. "Nine would be a perfect game, meaning a bunch of triples [on the inner ring] and taking out a double."
Chaney took up darts in 2003 and discovered he had a knack for it. In 2006, he won a couple of big events, including one that aired on ESPN, "and then it went downhill for four or five years," he says.
"I was still competitive, but you know how it is. You start thinking you know what you are doing."
He found his game again in 2012 and did well enough to win a few tournaments that, as part of the prize package, led to trips to England four years in a row for world tournaments.
Chaney says he throws as a hobby, not for the money. Event winners at the Choo Choo Classic will earn between $15 and $1,700, for example.
"I'm not making money at it," he says. "I'd do better cutting grass on the weekends as far as being able to predict or count on it."
Things are different overseas.
"In England, darts can make you a millionaire."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.