Paul Nicholson lists some of the most notorious 'bad losers' in the world darts, including the legendary Gary Anderson.
There’s a famous phrase ‘show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.’
When it comes to any elite sport, it doesn’t matter how nice you are away from competition or how close you are with the people you’re playing, everyone hates losing. Livelihoods, money, reputation, rankings, progression and titles are all at stake. It’s so much more important than ‘just a game’ so who would enjoy losing?!
On most occasions you’ll see smiles between both players at the end of a match, handshakes and maybe an embrace. But don’t be fooled into thinking the loser is happy and doesn’t care!
It wouldn’t be as interesting to write about the most gracious losers in darts (but feel free to tweet me if you want me to do another column on this subject) but I do have to mention a couple of players who deserve praise for how they impeccably deal with defeat.
The first is actually Michael van Gerwen. He never loses his temper and is always so magnanimous to his opponent, even when he’s in shock against an underdog such as Andrew Gilding in the UK Open final. He doesn’t blame anything or make excuses and ensures he gives the winner the credit they deserve.
As soon as he became world number one, he knew he had a responsibility to be a champion but also an example of someone who could handle defeat. It doesn’t mean he’s not hurt by the losses – he’ll just deal with it internally and with those closest to him.
The other player who seems to deal with it really well is Dave Chisnall – nobody in the world of darts has a bad word to say about him. If you beat him, he’ll smile and shake your hand. You’ll never know how bad he feels inside.
Let’s be clear, the players on the list below certainly aren’t the only ‘bad losers’ from down the years but I’ve focused on recent names.
You can go as far back as Jocky Wilson once refusing to shake the hands of Cliff Lazarenko, who then famously made his feelings known during a post-match barney!
Sorry Gary Anderson fans but he’s got to be in this list. Generally he handles defeat well but if you cast your mind back, there have been incidents where he’s come across as a bad loser. Even if some of these gripes may be justified in some people’s eyes.
He’s not been happy about squeaking floorboards, noises behind him, things players have supposedly said and various other antics he believes are bad sportsmanship or etiquette. You’ve got to remember that old school players were brought up with strict etiquette that the younger generation don’t necessarily subscribe to as religiously.
He doesn’t shy away from making his feelings known – on stage or during interviews.
He’s even been in bad moods after victories, such as table-gate with Mensur Suljovic at the World Championship one year, where he said he’d be ‘offski’ if gamesmanship became rife in the sport. And after his next win, he called Wayne Mardle a 'numpty'.
At the 2009 UK Open, he was ready to fill me in! I beat him fair and square on his tournament debut and although my celebration was a bit aggressive, it wasn’t towards him. It was to the camera.
One of my old friends from Northumberland was there holding Gary back because he had a desire to take me outside! To be fair, he’s not the only player who has wanted to give me a filling in, but this altercation meant we didn’t talk for about two years.
We shook hands if we ever we played each other but we’d never speak. I stayed clear of him because let’s face it, if he got hold of me it wouldn’t end well for me. He’s made of very tough Scottish stuff. I was on notice.
Gary is a very passionate individual and I really do admire him for that – it made him the exciting, legendary player he is, with such a huge fanbase. No matter how much he might act like he’s laid back about the game these days, don’t let that kid you about his hatred of losing.
But he’s had issues with the likes of Gerwyn Price, Adrian Lewis, Joe Cullen, Chris Dobey and even Raymond van Barneveld in the past.
In regards to the Dobey incident at the World Championship, I do know what Gary said to Chris during one of the breaks but I’m not at liberty to say. Gary was frustrated at the position he was in at the time and let the situation get the better of him perhaps.
As for the Joe Cullen row in the Premier League last year, I still don’t know what that was about! I don’t even think Joe knows!
He once famously pointed into the face of a baffled Raymond van Barneveld on stage during the Premier League and afterwards Barney told the TV cameras that he always plays fair. And he does. I’ve never heard anyone ever accuse Barney of any kind of gamesmanship. Ever.
When he was younger during his BDO days, he once threw his darts into the lake at Lakeside, although it was frozen at the time so they skidded across the surface. There will be lots of darts at the bottom of that water because there are many players who like to take their anger out on their tungsten.
Sometimes you’d have to say his coping mechanism actually fires him up for the future. At the 2014 World Championship, Gary lost to Michael van Gerwen in a game he maybe shouldn’t have lost. He passionately declared in his losing interview that it wouldn’t happen again the following year…and it didn’t.
I have to include Kim purely for the amount of players he’s had run-ins with after losing a match with down the years! The list is extraordinary and so long I wouldn’t know where to start.
He’s always been a feisty, whirlwind kind of character - hence his nickname ‘the Hurricane’ – and his exuberance and energy on stage once ruffled Phil Taylor up the wrong way.
Kim is a pumped up crowd pleaser when things are going well, but it’s a different story when he loses, as you can probably imagine.
Some of the excuses I’ve heard for losing are quite hilarious. Apparently he once accused an opponent of jangling the change in his pocket while he was throwing – but afterwards the player turned out his pockets and there was nothing in them!
Other excuses including talking behind him, tapping darts together, making noises at the table – anything you can think of. But let’s be clear, lots of players are guilty of this, including me.
I once accused Sky Sports of putting a picture of Kim’s wife on the big screen too much which influenced the crowd’s reactions! I’m not particularly proud of that excuse.
Kim isn’t the only player who likes to have an excuse ‘in the bank’ if he loses but from stories I’ve heard on the circuit, he’s perhaps “accused” of it the most.
Other excuses players come up with are cameramen clicking too much or moving too much, while body odour is also reeled out from time to time! Remember ‘fartgate’ between Gary Anderson and Wesley Harms?! Well, they blamed each other but the smell actually came from a security guard standing next to the stage I’ve been told.
People might remember Michael van Gerwen being unhappy with Russ Bray for being out of rhythm during his match with Jonny Clayton in Aberdeen last year. That was very out of character for Michael, who almost always blames himself for defeat and doesn’t make excuses relating to anyone else.
But generally there’s a lot of players who don’t take ownership of their own faults in defeats and always think it’s someone else’s fault. This section is certainly not purely about Kim!
He’ll hate me for including him in this list but Mark Webster is one of the worst losers I’ve ever seen!
Mark was one of those players you just had to avoid after he’d lost. You’d need to take a wide berth, give him space and certainly not say anything to him.
The first time I saw him losing his temper after a game I thought ‘I’m staying clear of this guy’ even though he ended up becoming one of my closest friends.
He used to slam his darts case on the table and one time I even saw him throw one of those disposable plastic cups against a wall so hard that it completely shattered! It was one of those cups that would just usually bounce softly off a surface. He was that hacked off, he could have probably thrown a golf ball into the sun that day.
The main reason he was like this is because he cared so much. There was never a time I saw him lose and he didn’t care.
He’s an amazing personality in the sport and a great former world champion, but he’ll be the first to admit he didn’t handle defeat well against anyone. He was magnanimous and would always say ‘well played’ – but his reaction backstage was always quite animated to say the least!
I don’t think he ever did anything to get him in trouble – but he may have had some choice words for the tournament directors from time to time. But who hasn’t?!
The only player I can think he had notable frostiness with was James Wade because they once had a spat on the Sindelfingen stage back in 2017 on the European Tour but on that occasion it was Mark who won the match and was merely sticking up for himself.
In fact James is lucky to escape this list. He gives one of the worst handshakes after a defeat – it’s like handshaking smoke.
I can’t point fingers and not put myself on this list. I hate losing and have coped really badly with it in the past.
I used to get defeat out of my system in a Chimp Paradox way – for those familiar with the Dr Steve Peters book. My chimp would take over and all sorts of stuff would then happen in practice areas and hotel rooms when I lost matches.
I’ve thrown my darts at the wall and in the bin – but that’s on a good day!
Even during Covid when I was playing alone in my room in online tournaments, I’d get annoyed in here, throw things around and scream into pillows.
I’ve moaned and whinged at the press, I’ve cried outside against brick walls after demoralising defeats in big events. I’ll freely admit I’m one of the biggest cry-babies in the sport.
But for two years running at the World Matchplay when I was balling my eyes out, it was Michael van Gerwen who came up to me and put his arm round my shoulder and gave me words of support. He hadn’t even played his game yet.
The way I couldn’t handle losing was an indication of my somewhat fragile mental health.
After the famous World Cup defeat to Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis in February 2012, I punched the stage backing and thew my darts down so hard that one of them bounced up and hit a cameraman. I deservedly got fined for that and mentally I wasn’t right for six months. I didn’t get into another final on the Pro Tour until the September. And even then I hadn’t recovered.
I didn’t tend to complain at other players although there was one time when I pulled Andrew Gilding to tell him that I thought he’d overstepped the oche. I was wrong.
I even accused Daryl Gurney of cheating once to his face – but that was ill-advised when you look at the size of him compared to me. I was convinced his trailing leg was touching the oche before his third dart had left his hand but within 24 hours I realised I was being an idiot and I apologised.
I did once accuse Germany’s Bernd Roith of pouring water with the ice every single time I was throwing at a key moment during a Players Championship match. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. I pulled him backstage after I lost and told him that if I found out he did that to anyone else again, I’d come for him. He was shocked and didn’t say anything. I still stand by that because he knew exactly what he was doing.