The spectators are more important to the darts than to almost any other sport – they are loud, creative, ritualistic and fickle. Every night 2,500 come into to Alexandra Palace, and there have been 40,000 through the doors this year. Each night 25,000 pints of beer are sold. Seats cost between £20 and £45 in the tiers and between £30 and £55 on the tables. Those in the cheaper seats naturally taunt those at the tables as being insufficiently fun.
2 The costumes
The darts has replaced Test cricket as Britain's foremost sporting fancy-dress party. This year has been better than ever. There have been the usual throngs of the predictable – Santas, nuns, monks, bananas, Mario and Luigi, cowboys and farmyard animals. But there were also Oompa-Loompas, and Where's Wallys. There was a Kermit the Frog and a Miss Piggy. And, best of all – a lion, a witch and a wardrobe.
3 The characters
With such a partisan crowd, darts has tried to build up the public "characters" of some of its top players. These invented personas can grate but every top player now has a nickname, walk-on music and their own conspicuous shirts. Michael van Gerwen is "Mighty Mike". Peter Wright is "Snakebite", Kevin Painter is "The Artist" and Robert Thornton is "The Thorn". Mervyn King, though, is not "The Governor" but merely "The King'".
4 The Power
Towering over the tournament, in this year as in every other, is Phil Taylor. With a statistical domination of his sport matching that of Don Bradman, "The Power" is competing for his 16th world championship title this evening against a man 29 years his junior. He is the most relentless, ruthless competitor in the game's history. He scores high but the key to his success is consistently completing difficult finishes.
5 The rivalries
For all the raucousness, there is a quiet tension to darts. Mentality is more important than technique and nothing is more precious than momentum and confidence. Mind games can spill over into unpleasantness at the oche. At the end of their semi-final on Sunday, Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor exchanged words as Taylor pulled away from Van Barneveld's embrace. Taylor has since apologised but that tension is one of the reasons darts is so compelling.
6 Alexandra Palace
It was a difficult decision when the World Darts Championship left its spiritual home – the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, a nightclub, near the Dartford Tunnel. But since the 2008 tournament it has been held at Alexandra Palace; a larger, more accessible venue in north London, usually used for live music. The move has been a complete success. Last year the PDC signed a new three-year deal with the venue.
7 The trophy
This is the first world championship since the passing in August 2012 of Sid Waddell, the legendary television commentator and voice of the sport. In his honour, there is a new prize for the winner, the newly commissioned Sid Waddell Trophy. The trophy has six silver rods rising from a base made of black granite and rare red Eritrean marble. The trophy will be presented to the champion by Sid's son, Dan.
8 The Professional Darts Corporation
The World Darts Championship has not always been the peak of the game. In 1994 some senior players broke away from the British Darts Organisation to form the World Darts Council and play their own world championship. The WDC is now the PDC and 19 years on from the initial rupture, the PDC (shown on Sky Sports and in 3D) has far out-stripped the BDO in terms of professionalism and prize money. The prize pot for the world championship is £1,000,000, with £200,000 for the winner.
9 A global game
Traditionally the BDO was more popular in continental Europe but the PDC is getting increasing exposure. This year there is a Dutch finalist – Van Gerwen – as well as a semi-finalist in Van Barneveld. This world championship has broken viewing figure records in the Netherlands and also in Germany, where the European Championship is being held in July, in Mülheim. It is being shown in Australia, New Zealand, across the Middle East and in eastern Europe.
10 Rest of the calendar
Tonight is just the start of the darting year. The PDC calendar has eight other premier events, the best of which is the Premier League Darts. The eight best players tour the country over 14 Thursday nights before the play-offs in May at The O2. The winner takes home £150,000, making it the second-best paying tournament.Reuse content