Pétanque Rules

Quick Rules

  1. The two team captains toss a coin to see who starts.
  2. A member of the team which won the toss draws a circle in the gravel, stands in it and throws the jack a distance of between 6 and 10 metres.  (On an open terrain you can play in any direction. For safety reasons, the Pier Head is marked out with individual pistes (lanes), and games are played end to end. )
  3. A member of the same team then throws their first boule.
  4. From now on, the team who doesn't own the boule closest to the jack must throw next (and keep throwing until they own the closest boule).
  5. There aren't any rules on the order in which a team throws, as long as everyone only throws their own boules.  (The team (captain) decides who has each throw. Some times this is tactical, as you may have someone who is good at shooting, and you want to clear an opponent's boule that is close to the coche.)
  6. When a team runs out of boules, the opposing team continues to play until all of their boules are thrown too.
  7. Count up the number of the winning team's boules that are closer to the jack than the opposition's closest boule and this is how many points have been scored.
  8. The team who won the previous end draws a new circle at the opposite end of the piste, throws the jack, etc.
  9. First team to 13 points wins the set or match. Like tennis you can play more than one set, and the winner will be the one with most sets.

Full Rules

The above are not the complete set of rules, just those needed to get you up and playing.  The full rules specify everything from court size to etiquette but the game's simplicity means that the rules relating to play are relatively few and they're actually quite easy to understand.

Rules Spotlight

Not all of us have managed to memorise every single rule so this section will highlight some of the lesser known rules.

Bold italics have been used here for emphasis, they are not in the original rules.


Article 9 - Dead Jack during an end

The jack is dead in the following 7 cases:


When the jack is displaced into an out-of-bounds area, even if it comes back on to the authorised playing area. A jack straddling the boundary of an authorised terrain is valid. It becomes dead only after having completely crossed the boundary of the authorised terrain or the dead ball line, that is to say, when it lies entirely beyond the boundary when viewed from directly above. A puddle on which a jack floats freely is considered to be an out of bounds area.

When, still on the authorised terrain, the moved jack is not visible from the circle, as defined in Article 7. However, a jack masked by a boule is not dead. The Umpire is authorised to temporarily remove a boule to declare whether the jack is visible.

When the jack is displaced to more than 20 metres (for Juniors and Seniors) or 15 metres (for the younger players) or less than 3 metres from the throwing circle.

When on marked out playing areas, the jack crosses more than one lane immediately to the side of the lane in use and when it crosses the end line of the lane.

When the displaced jack cannot be found, the search time being limited to 5 minutes.

When an out-of-bounds area is situated between the jack and the throwing circle.

When, in time limited games, the jack leaves the designated playing area.