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Rules & History of Game


 History of petanque

Pétanque is reputed to have been invented in 1907 in the town of La Ciotat near Marseilles as a less physically-demanding form of jeu provençal. Physical effort was reduced by shortening the length of the pitch by roughly half and replacing a moving delivery with a stationary one. The name is derived from the term pés tanqués, which in the Provençal language means "stuck feet", because in Pétanque the feet have to remain fixed together within a (small) circle. It is of interest that this also means that handicapped people in wheelchairs can compete without any disadvantage. Pétanque has become so popular that the term Jeu de Boules (game of balls) is often used to refer to it, even though Pétanque is only one of several variants of boules game and one of the newest. Many French villages have a special stadium for the game called a Boulodrome, most often dedicated to pétanque.

The international Pétanque federation Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal was founded in 1958 in Marseille and has about 600,000 members in 52 countries (2002).

The first World Championships were organized in 1959. The most recent championships were held in Faro (2000), Monaco (2001), Grenoble (2002, 2004 and 2006), Geneva (2003), Brussels (2005), and Pattaya will host 2007 championship. Fifty-three countries participated in 2004 and the number is growing every year.


 Rules of the game

The game is always played in teams. In competitions there are three different configurations:

  • three players per team (two boules per player), called triplets
  • two players per team (three boules per player), called doublets
  • one player per team (three boules per player), called singles

The boules are made of metal and weigh between 650 g and 800 g, with a diameter of between 70.5 mm and 80 mm. The jack is made of wood or synthetic material and has a diameter of between 25 mm and 35 mm.

The playing area should be at least 15 meters (49 ft) long, by 4 meters (13 ft) wide.

A player from the team that wins the toss starts the game by drawing a circle on the playing field (35 to 50 cm in diameter). Both feet must be inside this circle, touching the ground, when playing. The player then throws the jack to a distance of between 6 and 10 metres from the starting circle. The jack must be visible and at least 1 metre from any obstacle or boundary, otherwise it must be thrown again.

A player from the team that wins the toss then plays the first boule, trying to place it as close to the jack as possible. Then the opposing team must get closer to the jack and keeps playing until they succeed. When they do, it is back to the first team to do better, and so forth.

A player may choose to 'point' a boule (get it as near as possible to the jack) or 'shoot' it (attempt to displace another boule). When one team runs out of boules, the other team plays their remaining boules. When all boules have been played, that is the end of a 'round', and the winning team scores a point for each boule that is nearer to the jack than the opposing team's nearest boule.

Displacing the jack with a boule is allowed. It is an advantageous (albeit dangerous) play for a skilled player late in a round, when all or most members of his team have played long.

The team that wins a round starts the next one, and a new circle is drawn where the jack ended up in the previous round.

If a boule completely crosses any of the predetermined boundaries, it is considered dead and cannot be scored. Likewise, if the jack is moved and subsequently completely crosses a boundary, the round is scratched and the jack is thrown again. If only one team has boules remaining to throw when this occurs, they receive points for every unplayed ball. Accordingly, the (extremely difficult) play of deliberately shooting out the jack is a winning gambit in some circumstances.

A complete game is usually played up to 13 points.