Throwing to select teams

In a melée tournament (as opposed to a “select” tournament), individual players enter and are grouped into teams using some random selection method. One traditional technique for creating melée teams is to “throw” for teams. (For others, see our page on selecting teams for a melée.)

The process begins with someone (the club president, for example) assuming the role of competition organizer. He (or she) takes a head count of the number of members wishing to play.

On the basis of the count, he decides what kinds of teams are needed. Suppose, for example, that there are 14 players, and 3 pistes are available. Three pistes can accommodate three games — 6 teams — playing at the same time. Therefore, he needs to form 6 teams. So he might decide to organize four teams of two players and two teams of three players.

The players line up. The organizer places a jack in front of the players at some random distance, say eight to ten meters. Then, on the organizer’s count of “one… two… THREE!” everyone throws (points) their boules at the jack.


The competition organizer then goes through the boules and assigns them to teams — the closest boule to team 1, the second closest boule to team 2, and so on.

The process works best when you have two people doing the organizing. One person selects the boules in order of their distance from the jack. He/she picks them up in order, and hands or rolls them to the second person, who arranges them into teams in the order in which he gets them.

In the photo below, Ronnie (the lady in the dark shirt) has laid out the boules of the six players from (her) right to left, to form the basis of six teams. Note that the boules are grouped into pairs. The pairing indicates which teams will play each other in the first round of games.


The rest of the boules in turn, from closest to farthest, are added to the teams.


The photo below is from a different meeting of the club, which was attended by 19 people. The organizer has decided to set up eight teams — five 2-person teams and three 3-person teams.

In the first round of games, team 5 (in which 2 players use 3 boules each) will play team 6 (in which 3 players use 2 boules each). If there are players that arrive later, they will be added (between games, or between ends) to one of the two-person teams.


After the boules have been grouped into teams, each player picks up his own boule and finds out who his team-mate(s) will be.

To start the event, team 1 plays team 2, team 3 plays team 4, team 5 plays team 6, and so on. After that, as the various games finish, winners play winners and losers play losers.


A possible variation of this technique (used by the Washington DC National Capitol Club de Petanque, where these pictures were taken in September 2013) is to conduct two separate throws. First there is a throw for the recognized shooters in the club. Then there is a second throw for everybody else. In a club with a wide variety of skill levels among the members, this helps to distribute the shooters more or less randomly among the teams.

Here is the London Petanque Club choosing teams via a melee, July 2014. You can watch it on YouTube HERE.

The London Petanque Club choosing teams via a melee.


Walla Walla Petanque Club throwing for teams in December 2014

Throwing for teams in Adelaide, Australia

Throwing for teams in Adelaide, Australia


4 thoughts on “Throwing to select teams

  1. My club uses cards for the draw. The cards are marked in sets of three namely,1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B and so on. The number of cards as there are players are placed in a sack and players draw a single card each. Players with the card 1A are in the team that plays the team of players with the 1B card, 2A plays 2B, 3A plays 3B and so on – very simple and efficient. It was a bit tricky working out the number of teams with respect to the number of players but we now have a ready reckoner matrix to help us quickly work out that as well

  2. I know that the Amelia Island Club uses a similar technique involving a deck of ordinary playing cards. The problem with cards is that it requires some time to set up the cards before the draw, especially if you want to create a mix of 2-person and 3-person teams. A couple of advantages are that (a) each person at least temporarily has a physical card telling him what team he belongs to — this helps people to find their team-mates and reduces confusion. And (b) I think cards work better than a throw when you have a large number of players.

    I’ve heard that the Seattle Petanque Club uses a simple “count off” method. If you want six teams, the organizer simply goes through the crowd of players counting them off — 1,2,3,4,5,6,1,2,3,4,5,6,… This is very quick, and has the advantage that it puts people who might have come together and are standing together (husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend couples, for example) on different teams.

    Another traditional method is to have a “sorting bag”. Each player puts one of his boules into the bag. The bag is shaken to mix the boules thoroughly. Then boules are drawn from the bag and assigned to teams in the sequence in which they were drawn. The first two boules go to doubles team A, the second two boules go to doubles team B, and so on. The Noyo-Yoyos club in Ft. Bragg, California uses the sorting bag method.

  3. There are two basic types of melee. In a “team melee” players draw for teams, and then stay together as a team during the competition. In an “individual melee” (often called a “panache” tournament) players draw for teams, but change teams in each round, and carry their own individual scores forward with them.

    There are a LOT of ways that any kind of tournament can be conducted, so for any particular competition the answer to your question depends on how the competition organizer chose to set up the competition. What I’ve described in this post is a traditional or typical way for club members to choose teams for their weekly meeting, which is typically played as a team melee (and nobody really cares much who “won” for the day). You can see our overview of tournament systems for a bit more information on various tournament formats. It includes a brief overview of how scoring is done for a panache.

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