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Pétanque History & Rules

Gavarni Le joueur de boules 1858

Gavarni Le joueur de boules 1858

Pétanque  is a form of boules where the goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally “piglet”) or jack, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground. The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Similar games are bocce and bowls.

The current form of the game originated in 1907 in La Ciotat, in Provence, in southern France. The English and French name pétanque comes from petanca in the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats , meaning “feet together” or more exactly “feet anchored”.

Playing the game

 Petanque_scoring_example_1_point

In this game red’s boule is closest to the jack, followed by blue. Red scores one point, blue scores nothing

Petanque_scoring_example_2_points

Here red has two boules closer, and scores two points

Pétanque is played by two teams, where each team consists of one, two, or three players. In the singles and doubles games each player has three boules; in triples each player has only two. A coin is tossed to decide which side goes first. The starting team draws a circle on the ground which is 35-50 centimeters in diameter: all players must throw their boules from within this circle, with both feet remaining on the ground. The first player throws the jack 6–10 meters away.

Order of play

A player from the team that threw the jack then throws their first boule. A player from the opposing team then makes a throw. Play continues with the team that is not closest to the jack having to continue throwing until they either land a boule closer to the jack than their opponents or run out of boules.

If the closest boules from each team are an equal distance from the jack, then the team that played last plays again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the position changes. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the game then no points are scored by either team.

The game continues with a player from the team that won the previous end drawing a new circle around where the jack finished and throwing the jack for a new end.

Scoring

Play ends, and points may be scored when both teams have no more boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play. The winning team receives one point for each boule that it has closer to the jack than the best-placed boule of the opposition.

If the jack is knocked out of play, no team scores unless only one team has boules left to play. In this case the team with boules receives one point for each that they have to play.

The first team to reach 13 points wins.

2 Comments
  1. See lots more about Petanque from a special group on the Flickr site. Why don’t you have a look at the following site: http://tinyurl.com/no3hbzc

  2. Merci beaucoup! This has been very helpful to refresh my memory of the rules of the game in readiness for our Pétanque tournament on 23rd February.