When Keith Deller arrived at the 1983 World Darts Championship, he had no money. In fact, Deller was borrowing cash from the officials during the week just to make it by. However, by the end of the week-long tournament in the West Midlands, Deller would walk out of the Jollees Cabaret Club and buy himself a house in Enfield with a swimming pool.
Is this the best story in the history of the game? Perhaps, but let’s first go back to Deller’s early days in East Anglia to get a better understanding of how far he came.
Deller grew up in a modest house in Ipswich and only started playing darts when his family put a board up in the kitchen.
🎯 𝟏𝟖𝟎!— Ipswich Town FC (@IpswichTown) February 21, 2022
Great to have Russ Bray, Ryan Meikle and Keith Deller as special guests of the Club at the weekend.
Hope you enjoyed your afternoon, guys!#itfc pic.twitter.com/x48PRX0v0p
It didn’t take long for Deller to take to the sport and before long, he was spending up to four hours a day throwing darts at the kitchen wall. Being a mid-terraced house, the neighbours would complain tirelessly about the new soundtrack to their lives which was a dart thudding into the kitchen wall for half of the day. Deller’s parents could see that their son was a natural and so the complaints from the frustrated neighbours began to fall on deaf ears after a while.
Essentially, he was encouraged to play as much as he wanted so long as he had done his homework first. Indeed, this was the only condition attached to using the family dartboard so every day after school, a diligent Deller could be seen furiously scribbling his homework down in order to spend the afternoon and evening throwing darts.
Having learnt the game in the same room as his family would prepare meals in the early 1970s, Deller was ready to broaden his horizons by trying to beat other people during real competitions.
Only a short time later in 1974, he won his first men’s singles tournament in a pub down the road from his home in Ipswich called the Kingfisher. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well with some of the locals who were put out by being upstaged by Deller, who they considered to be brash. The reality was that this was someone who was simply obsessed with darts.
From the floor of the fabled Kingfisher, wins in the Super League followed as Deller would continue his journey to the professional game by competing in various tournaments.
A few years later, Deller had done enough on the local Suffolk darts scene and around the country to qualify to play in the World Darts Championship in 1983 against past champions. When he arrived at the Jollees Cabaret Club in Stoke-on-Trent, the organisers could have been forgiven for thinking that he was a fan, owing to his fresh-faced appearance. Only, Deller was there to win even if no one had heard of him.
What followed was a remarkable and wholly unexpected run to the final which today, Deller puts down to his sheer love for the game which overcame any feelings of self-doubt on the biggest stage. Yes, this was a man who was playing seven hours a day in the build-up to the tournament, not as a way of specifically practising but because it was what Deller wanted to do most with his time.
The Ipswich thrower had earned his date with destiny after securing a final showdown with Eric Bristow. In an attempt to try and give this mismatch some modern context, imagine Michael Ven Gerwen took on Toru Suzuki in the final of the 2023 PDC World Championship. This is, of course, the biggest event in the darts calendar.
Now, consider that the latest sports betting for the outright winner of the event in December, as of the 27th of April, prices Suzuki at 1000/1 to win. In essence, those are more or less the odds that Deller would have been given before the event started which is why the 1983 final is arguably the best of all time.
The 1983 World Darts Championship final was a monumental moment in darts and for the man himself who had learnt his trade in his family's kitchen, it was a dream come true.
Deller faced off against the legendary Bristow who would eventually retire with five world championships to his name at the end of his career.
🎯🎂 | Darts World Birthday— Darts World Magazine (@Darts_World) December 24, 2022
🏴 Keith Deller, 64.
Keith's contribution to the modern game can be summed up in three numbers 1️⃣3️⃣8️⃣
His autobiography carries the digits that won him that fairytale World title.
His appetite & passion have lasted 4+ decades & into @SeniorsDarts! pic.twitter.com/3ald6RhCK6
Again, Deller refused to be intimidated by the occasion or the opponent and managed to take a 5-3 lead in the match. Bristow fought back gallantly to level the match at 5-5 but Deller maintained his composure and produced an iconic moment in darts history to seal the match after landing a 138 finish to win the match 6-5 - this has since been named the "Deller Checkout."
Against all odds, Deller became the 1983 World Darts Champion. It was a spine-tingling upset and one of the most memorable moments in darts.