Petanque best practices for playing with Covid-19

A list of best practices for playing during the pandemic, gathered from various sources.

Current research indicates that Covid-19 is spread primarily by water droplets and aerosolized virus particles exhaled by persons who don’t (yet) realize that they have contracted the disease. We have two tools to stop this mode of transmission— social distancing and mask-wearing. Touching objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission, although objects should be handled with care and hand-washing after handling objects is recommended.

On the basis of this information, petanque groups have developed some best practices for playing petanque during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  1. Always wear a mask.
  2. Practice social distancing. The recommended minimum social distance is 6 feet (2 meters), but make it more if you can.
    • Remember to maintain social distancing while boules are being measured. Don’t congregate around the jack while boules are being measured.
    • Remember to maintain social distancing while boules are being picked up. Don’t congregate around the jack. Kick boules away from the head, and/or take turns picking up the boules.
  3. Don’t share objects or pass them hand-to-hand. This includes hand sanitizer, boules, the jack, the circle, and the tape measure.
    • Each game should have its own circle, and there should be a single player who acts as the designated circle-handler. Only he/she should pick up and place and mark the circle. Alternatively, the game may be played without a plastic circle; players draw circles on the ground in the traditional way.
    • Each game should have its own tape measure, and there should be a single player who acts as the designated measurement-maker.
    • Each team should have its own jack, and there should be a single player who acts as its designated jack-handler. Only he/she should pick up the team’s jack at the end of a mène, and only he/she should throw the team’s jack at the beginning of a mène.
  4. Physically space out games, so that there is as much distance as possible between games. If you are playing in a boulodrome with marked lanes, leave at least one unused lane between lanes that are being used.
  5. Do not use handshakes (or if you’re French, hugs and kisses) to greet or congratulate each other at the beginning and end of games. Suggested alternatives are verbal greetings, elbow-bumps, or namasté.

Petanque in the time of Covid-19

Petanque in the time of Covid-19
Some petanque clubs are reopening with Covid-19 guidelines in place. If your club is playing or reopening, here are some thoughts.

  • Current research indicates that Covid-19 is spread primarily by close person-to-person contact. A person who appears to be healthy may unwittingly be blasting virus-laden water droplets into the air every time that he/she exhales or speaks. That’s how the virus spreads. The water droplets typically don’t travel more than about 6 feet (2 meters); that’s why social distancing— maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others— is one of our most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus.
  • You wear a mask to protect other people from you, not to protect yourself from other people. The purpose of a mask is to contain your exhaled water droplets inside your mask, so that they don’t escape into the surrounding environment where they can infect someone else. Wearing a mask is a moral responsibility, not a matter of self-defense. It is what you do to protect your friends and neighbors, not yourself. That’s why— paradoxically— the younger, healthier, and stronger you are, the more important it is for you to wear a mask. You can appear to be healthy while in fact you have the virus and are unknowingly spreading it to everyone you meet.
  • Touching objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of coronavirus transmission. Although you can and should take sensible precautions (hand-washing, etc.), you are unlikely to contract the virus by touching your snail mail or Amazon delivery box, your pet, or items in the grocery store when you go shopping. When you go grocery shopping, the time for maximum caution is not when you are filling your shopping cart; it is when you’re in the checkout line, close to the cashier and other shoppers.
  • If you are playing petanque, the time for maximum caution is not when you are picking up the jack which was thrown earlier by another player; it is when you are simply standing around and talking or watching the game. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THIS— The closer you stand to your friends and fellow-players, the more you may unknowingly be putting them in danger.

Petanque players know that the most dangerous conditions are in crowded enclosed spaces. Out in the open air they feel safe— or at least safe enough to play while wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Some groups feel safe enough to require only social distancing, and don’t mandate the use of masks. The FFPJP guidelines for playing during Covid-19 recommend but do not require mask-use.

Feeling safe enough in the open air to go maskless is understandable, but it also means that you are placing all of your eggs in one basket. It means that your only tool for preventing the spread of the virus is social distancing. You should therefore absolutely observe social distancing practices religiously. You must treat everyone you meet— and yourself— as a potential carrier. In light of the seriousness of this issue, if your petanque group is active and playing—

  • Try to observe a greater social distance than is normally recommended. Make the minimum social distance 10 feet rather than 6 feet— 3 meters rather than 2 meters.
  • Players naturally congregate around the jack while measuring or while boules are being picked up. Be aware of that tendency. Resist that tendency.
  • Physically space out your games, so that there is as much space as possible between active terrains.
  • Pay attention to the wind. Even a light breeze will disperse exhaled water droplets, but it will also increase the distance that a droplet can travel in the air. Throw the jack across the wind-direction rather than upwind or downwind. Watch where you are standing; try not to stand upwind or downwind from another player. Don’t be the group in the upper diagram; be the group in the lower diagram.

Shoot the 30 – a Facebook precision shooting competition

In this Year Of The Coronavirus, petanque players are finding ways to compete while maintaining social distancing. Shoot the 30 is a Facebook group where players can participate in a grass-roots version of the FIPJP precision shooting competition. The idea apparently originated in Europe and was brought to America by Wolfgang Kurz (Valley of the Moon Petanque Club) and René van Kesteren (Salt Lake City Petanque Club).

You can find one entry HERE.

The rules that I’ve found on Facebook are a bit sketchy, so I’ve filled in the gaps based on the rules of the FIPJP precision shooting (tir de precision) competition.

1. Draw a target circle, 1 meter in diameter, on the ground.
2. Place a target boule in the center of the target circle.
3. There are three shooting distances: 7/8/9 meters.
4. Throw 10 boules from each distance: 30 boules in all. Shoot the 30.
5. Each throw scores from zero to five points.
6. A perfect score is 150 points (30 boules x 5 points).

A thrown boule is a hit if the first thing that it hits is the target boule, or if it hits the ground inside the target circle and then hits the target boule.
A thrown boule is a miss if it doesn’t hit the target boule or the first thing that it hits is the ground outside the target circle or the edge of the target circle.

Points are earned in the following ways.

  • carreau – 5 points
    The target boule is knocked completely out of the circle and the thrown boule stays inside the circle.
  • réussi (success) – 3 points
    The target boule is knocked out of the circle, but then the thrown boule also goes out of the circle.
  • touché (touch) – 1 point
    The target boule is hit (touché) but is not knocked completely out of the circle.
  • miss – 0 points

The easiest way to do this is with two people. One person throws and the other stands near the target circle, keeps score, resets the target area between throws, and tosses the thrown boules back to the thrower.


For a long time I’ve been interested in finding a simple method for measuring (assigning a numeric value to) a player’s skill level. If we had such a method, then a player looking for a partner for a competition could use that numeric value to help find a partner with a similar skill level. I proposed one idea HERE, but using a player’s “Shoot the 30” score would probably be easier….
I’m looking for a partner for the upcoming Amelia Island Open. I’m mostly a pointer but I can shoot in a pinch. My “Shoot the 30” score is typically ____.


La Circulaire – a lesser-known pétanque tradition

Almost from the day that petanque was invented in 1910, petanque players have experimented with tools and methods for drawing a throwing circle on the ground. Using a foot to swipe a curve (courbe) in the dirt was crude. Drawing a cicle with a finger left you with dirty hands. Using a stick worked well, but suitable sticks weren’t always readily available. Players began to experiment with specialized tools for drawing circles, and in the process they created one of the lesser-known pétanque traditions— that of l’outil pour faire le cercle or simply la circulaire.

The most popular type of circulaire was made from the tip of the horn of the Alpine Ibex. Some were simply polished, but there was also a tradition of elaborately carving the horns. Possibly because many of the carved circulaires were created by sailors (who played petanque while in port and carved scrimshaw while at sea), one of the most popular designs was of a mermaid holding up two boules. In 1971, the founders of Starbucks Coffee adapted that design to create the first version of their company logo. The design was altered so that the mermaid’s tails cover the boules in her hands, but you can still see the boules in the band surrounding the image.

Carved circulaires were never widely used, partly because only a few of them were ever created, partly because they were expensive, and partly because the Alpine Ibex had been hunted almost to extinction. Some players improvised circulaires from old screwdrivers and, more recently, old ballpoint pens. Some players opted for a manufactured “petanque marker”, a version of which is still available from

Although these designs were functional and effective, I’ve always felt that they were a bit clunky. Recently I found a new, streamlined design that I actually prefer. It is long enough to provide a good grip and good freedom of motion for the wrist. There is a nice rubber cushion on the handle. A graphite core keeps the weight down, and its slim design allows it eaily to be tucked away in a pocket. It is available for €16 at

[Originally published 2020-04-01.  Reposted with permission.]

An open letter to that third boule

Lee Harris, Portland Petanque Club, Portland, Oregon, USA (August 29, 2019)

If I could be judged solely on the merits of you, my third boule, then I would be likened to the greatest players in petanque.

But I must be honest with myself. Your greatness is no reflection on me. You are ever flawless in execution and I marvel at thee.

Contrary to the first and second boule to leave my hand this end, you plot your own course, and refuse to follow in the ruts that your predecessors did.

You are unlike your two fellows, who went where I threw them and not where I desired that they should go. You threw off conformity to mark your own path, casually rolling past the barricade of boules, to nudge your boxwood compatriot. I pump my arm in salute to you. Bob, I believe I shall call you, Bob.
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Where to aim when you’re shooting

My friends and I are aspiring shooters, and one question that we toss around is— “Where should you aim when you’re shooting?”  We’ve come up with a variety of answers. Here is the answer that I like best, because it is the one that works best for me.

Aim for the spot on the ground immediately in front of the target boule.

Go to the target boule and put your boule on the ground directly in front of it, so the two boules are touching. That’s where you should aim; that’s where you want your thown boule to hit the ground. Here is a view from above; the target boule is on the left; the ghostly circle on the right is where you want your boule to come down.

Here is a side view. You can see the thrown boule coming down from the right at approximately a 45 degree angle.

There a a number of reasons why I think this strategy works. Continue reading

The magic yellow line comes to televised petanque

If you watch American football on television, you’re familiar with the magic yellow line. Incredibly powerful computer technology now makes it possible to superimpose computer-generated graphics onto the moving images of the game in such a way that the graphics appear to be physically painted onto the playing field. This technology was first used to display the first-and-ten line as a yellow line on the field (hence the name “magic yellow line”) but now it has advanced to the point where many other graphical elements can also be inserted onto the screen.

This technology has finally made its way to televised petanque. I’ve been wishing for it for a long time, and now it’s here. You can see it at a few scattered places in the 2017 Eurocup Finale on Youtube.

CLICK to view larger image

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The technology isn’t yet perfect— the 10m10 distance shown in the first image was wrong. (The umpires measured it at 9m73, so the jack was good.) But of course it will get better.

The Ten Commandments of Petanque (postcards)

Paul Ordner had a long and successful career (starting in 1923) as a commercial artist, creating illustrations for advertisments, magazine covers, and posters (especially for sports-related magazines and events) as well as humorous and political cartoons. Around 1960 he began creating humorous drawings and cartoons for postcard publisher Éditions Photochrome à Toulouse. Eventually he designed almost 300 cards. He died in 1969 at age 68. A book of his art, Paul Ordner: 40 ans de dessin sportif, humoristique et politique, was published in 2014.

His series of postcards called “The Ten Commandments of Petanque” (Les Dix Commandements de la Pétanque) is popular with Petanque players.

01: You may tell your wife to go to hell, but thou shalt finish the game first.
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Unboxing Obut order from PetanqueAmerica

I ordered some jacks, an umpire’s folding ruler, and a set of the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules from Petanque America.

The first item in the order was several orange Obut jacks. I’d seen the orange jacks on Youtube videos and the color seemed to be easy to see. I’d describe the color as matte (not glossy) flourescent orange.

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How to send text messages from your laptop or PC

If you’re trying to co-ordinate a group of petanque players, it can sometimes be handy to be able to send them text messages via email from your laptop or PC. Here’s how to do it.

The first thing you need to know is that, for the purposes of emailing a text message, each cell phone has an ordinary email address. The format of that address is


The phoneNumber should be 10 digits. It should include the area code. It should include only numbers – no dashes or parentheses. So for a phone number of (333) 444-5555 the phoneNumber in the email address is 3334445555.

The carrierSMSgateway is the SMS (“Short Message Service”) gateway provided by the telephone carrier. If you know a telephone number, there are several free web sites that will let you look up the carrier of that number, and the carrier’s SMS gateway. One web site that I found easy to use was


In the image, you can see that the carrier for this particular number is Verizon Wireless, and Verizon’s SMS gateway is Very conveniently, provides the full SMS gateway address ( for the number that was looked up, so I can just copy-and-paste it into my email program.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will see your email address (the “Reply-to” email address that you provided when you sent your email message) in the place where he would normally see the caller’s telephone number. If the recipient replies to your text message, his reply will be sent to that email address.


Email providers often regard email that is sent from a telephone number as coming from an unknown or suspect source. Some will flag such email as spam, so that the reply ends up in your email’s JUNK MAIL folder. Some will greylist the reply and delay it (this message was delayed for an hour).

X-Greylist delayed 3601 seconds by postgrey-1.34 at

Some email providers will silently and completely filter out the reply— you receive no reply and no indication whatsoever that the recipient replied to your message. So, at least until you’ve experimented and determined otherwise, don’t assume that replies to your text message will get through to you.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will receive a text message consisting of the SUBJECT line of your email message (in parentheses) followed by the text of the message. You can use a very short subject line. When I send a text message with a question, I like to make the subject line just a question mark, so the recipient gets a text message that starts with “(?)”.

Keep your messages (including the SUBJECT line) short. Try to keep the whole thing to less than 160 characters. If your message is longer than 160 characters, your message will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters, and each chunk will be sent as a separate text message. Some carriers are smart enough to re-assemble the short chunks into one long text message, but most are not.

If you’d like to review your message before sending it to others, send it to your own phone. Then, if it looks good, you can send it to the real recipients.

Note that this information only applies to telephone numbers with US and Canada area codes. That is: numbers with country code = 1. You can send text messages to foreign countries, too. When dialing, you first specify your country’s “exit code” to get onto the international exchange, then you specify the recipient’s country code and his telephone number. For international dialing, one source that I found to be useful was It will tell you, for instance, that the exit code for the USA is 011.

How to watch petanque on region-restricted web sites

The 2016 world championships were streamed online on a French TV channel. But if you wanted to watch the champtionships, and lived in the USA, and went to La chaîne l’Équipe to watch the championships, what you saw was a “region restricted” message. You can see it HERE.video_region_restricted

In this post I describe the tool that I used to get around the region restrictions and watch the championships. If you’re interested in the technology behind region restriction, and the ways to get around region restrictions, Google THIS.
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How to blacken your boules

There are a number of reasons why you might want to make the entire surface of your boules black. You might want to make it easier to tell your boules from other players’ boules. You might want to play solitaire. You just might like the color.

Gun blacking comes off on your hands and wears off quickly. Black magic marker (permanent marker) is time-consuming and messy to apply, and leaves your boules slightly sticky for a while. Now Kim Badcock, of the Mission Beach Petanque Club in Australia, has a tip for what may be the best method yet.

In response to our post on boules and rust Kim wrote

Did you know you can make your SB boules black again and very easily. A soak or wipe over with a very weak acid solution (vinegar, lemon juice, dilute hydrichloric acid etc) will change the outer molecular layers of your boule to magnetite (black colour). Quickly wipe with an oiled cloth afterwards to help seal in the colouring.

This should work with all carbon-steel boules. It shouldn’t work with stainless steel boules or with chrome-plated boules (which means that it shouldn’t work with leisure boules).

Following Kim’s suggestion, I bought an inexpensive jug of distilled white vinegar. I left two La Franc SB boules to soak in the vinegar overnight. (La Franc SB boules are relatively soft carbon-steel boules, acier au carbone.) In the morning they were really black. When I washed them off, a lot of black came off on my hands. The boules were left with a deep uniform matte gunmetal grey color. There was a small shiny spot where they had been sitting on the bottom of the container.

In this picture, the brownish boule in the front is a rusty boule that has been brought back from the dead. The two vinegar-blackened boules are at the back. The boule at the left has been played with more than the boule at the right, so it is more scratched-up. The image doesn’t really capture the color of the boules. The boules, while not absolutely black, are a much darker grey than they appear in the photo. In play, they do appear to be black.
Click to see larger image.

This picture was taken immediately after I treated the boules. Since then, I’ve played with them a couple of times and the color seems relatively long-lasting. In any event, even if the color doesn’t last forever, renewing the color with another vinegar soak is essentially effortless. I’m happy with the result.

Update, April 28, 2017
Today, about 5 months after the date of the original post and after perhaps 30 to 50 hours of play, I thought the boules were beginning to look a bit shiny, so I blackened them again. Soaking them for 6 hours in distilled white vinegar restored them exactly to the condition that you see in the pictures in the original post.

How to remove magic marker from boules

During the off season I like to play solitaire. To make it easy to distinguish the two sets of boules, I cover one set pretty completely with black magic marker. When regular play resumes, I can easily remove remove the black marks with a product called “Goof Off”. You might be able to find it at your local hardware or hobby store. Otherwise, it is available via or from

Night play beside the baseball fields

Tucson’s climate is warm and dry (like the South of France) and there are many places in public parks that make fine petanque terrains. We don’t need a dedicated petanque boulodrome (although an air-conditioned one in summer would be nice). We prefer to play in the park on an open terrain.

There is, however, one problem with this arrangement. We can’t play after dark because none of the places where we play during the day has lights for night play.

There is a solution to this problem. I’m blogging about it because the solution is probably available in other cities, too.

In Tucson, the city and the county have a variety of public recreational facilities— parks, swimming pools, and community centers. There are also several large sports complexes scattered around the city. These facilities are designed to support sports that require large playing fields— baseball, (American) football, and soccer.

In these sports complexes, the baseball fields are typically pie-shaped. They are laid out in a large circular area that is divided into four quarters by wide gravel paths. There is one baseball diamond in each quarter. The paths between the fields give players and spectators access to the fields and to viewing stands. Tall posts supporting floodlights are located on the paths— the floodlights are very bright, and illuminate the fields on both sides of the paths as well as the paths themselves.

The paths are very wide. Because people walk across them a lot, they are hard-packed. They make perfect petanque terrains.

Aerial view (courtesy of Google Maps) of a typical sports complex— the Golf Links Sports Complex— in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The main entrance is from the parking lot in the upper right-hand corner of the photo.

Monday through Thursday evenings, city-league softball games are played on the fields. Games are scheduled for three time slots beginning at 6:30, 7:35pm, and 8:45pm. While games are in progress (roughly between 6:30pm and 10:00pm) the fields and paths are brightly lit by the floodlights located on the paths.

Between games players arrive and leave before and after their games, and there is a lot of foot traffic on the paths. But once the softball games have begun, the paths are virtually empty. The empty paths make excellent lighted petanque terrains.

A perfect lighted terrain for night play, on the paths at Golf Links Sports Complex.

View from the main entrance of the Golf Links Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. The access path for the baseball diamonds makes a perfect lighted terrain for night play.

The moral of the story…
What worked in our town might also work in yours. If you’re looking for a location for night play of petanque, you might be able to use facilities built for night play of other sports.

What to look for when you’re looking for places to play

When you’re looking around town for suitable places to play, it’d helpful to have a list of the things that are important in a playing area. Such a list can also be useful when conferring with your local Parks & Recreation Department about what features are important in a petanque facility in a public park.

Here is the playing area of the National Capitol Club de Petanque in Highlands Park, Alexandria, Virginia. It has all of the features that you want in a playing area — space for five terrains, convenient metered public parking (free on the weekends) and handicapped parking, portable restrooms, benches overlooking the terrains, picnic tables, big shade trees, overhead lighting for night play, a nearby playground for the little kids, and (obviously) a pleasant location.  It also has a storage shed to which the NCCdP has a key. The shed is useful for storing rakes (for clearing fallen leaves and branches off of the pistes after rain storms), plastic circles, guest boules, etc.

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How to watch petanque videos on YouTube

If you like to watch petanque videos on YouTube, eventually you will run across a video (like 2éme Demi-Finale PPF 2015 part 3) where things just don’t look right. The players may look too tall and thin. Or too short and squat. You may see the image on the left, when you know you should be seeing the image on the right.

The problem here is that the person who uploaded the video to YouTube made a mistake and uploaded the video with the wrong aspect ratio.

Is there something you can do about this?

The easiest solution is to go to and download and install a program called VLC. VLC is a free, open-source, cross-platform multimedia video player. It is safe and reliable. Download and install it.

Once you’ve installed it, you can use VLC, rather than your browser, to play YouTube videos. Here’s how to do it.

When you’re using your browser to watch YouTube videos, and you find one with a bad aspect ratio, select (highlight) the URL (web address) of the video and copy it (press CONTROL+C, or right-click and select COPY).AspectRatio_copyYoutube_URL
Then open VLC. On VLC’s Media menu, select Open Network Stream.

Then paste (press CONTROL+V, or right-click and PASTE) the URL there, and click on PLAY.

The video will start playing.

After it starts, an easy way to change the aspect ratio is simply to repeatedly press the “A” key on your keyboard until the video displays with the correct aspect ratio. If you prefer to do things a bit more explicitly, you can use your mouse to select Video, then Aspect Ratio, then the aspect ratio that you want.

AspectRatio_VLC_LoopIf you really want to study a video, VLC has a couple of other useful features.

One is a “loop” feature. If you click on the LOOP icon, that marks the beginning of a video clip. Click a second time on the LOOP icon, and VLC starts playing that same video clip over and over, so you can watch it over and over again as long as you want. Click on the LOOP icon again, and looping stops and normal play resumes.

AspectRatio_VLC_FrameByFrameIf you click on the FRAME-BY-FRAME icon, the video freezes. Then each time you click again on the FRAME-BY-FRAME icon the video advances one frame. This is the ultimate possible slow-motion playback. Clicking the wedge-shaped PLAY icon will cause VLC to resume normal display of the video.

How to make a jack – the traditional way

TurningAPetanqueJack_theTraditionalWayIt is easy to find videos on YouTube showing how boules are manufactured. But you never see anything about how jacks are manufactured.

Recently I stumbled across this article on Boulistenaute, written in 2010 by JacPetanque (Jac Verheul). Even if you don’t read French, the pictures are interesting.

And the article has a link to this video clip on DailyMotion, from a documentary made in 1995.

The boule advantage

To understand petanque at the strategic level, you need to understand the concept of “the boule advantage”.  Intuitively, the idea is this — at any point during a mene, the team with the most unplayed boules has “the boule advantage” or simply “the advantage”. If your team has two unplayed boules, but my team has four, then my team has the boule advantage.

Here is a more precise definition —

If a team gains the point every time it throws, we will say that the team plays perfectly. (Note that it doesn’t make any difference how they gain the point. They can out-point the opposition, or shoot away an opposition boule that is holding the point, or shoot the jack. The important thing is that they never require more than one throw to gain the point.)

At any point during a mene, a team has the boule advantage if, assuming that it plays perfectly from that point forward, that team will play the last boule in the mene.

Note that before either team has thrown its first boule, the second team to play already has the boule advantage. The team that throws the first boule has the boule disadvantage.  You can often see this dynamic in world-championship games. Team A points the first boule, and Team B shoots it with their own first boule. Team A points their next boule and Team B shoots it with their next boule. Point. Shoot. Point. Shoot. The teams alternate gaining the point until Team A points their last boule. Team B shoots it with their last boule and wins the mène.

In this kind of game, the results can sometimes be extreme. Suppose that every time that Team B shoots, it knocks Team A’s boule out-of-bounds and its own boule ends up two meters from the jack. After the last boule is thrown, Team B scores six points… and not one of its boules is closer than two meters from the jack!

Among world-class players, the “point, shoot, point, shoot” pattern is so predictable that often the best way to follow the game is not to watch for the fantastic carreau or the incredible plombée. It is to watch for the failures, the situations in which one of the teams messes up and requires two or more throws to gain the point. The real drama in a world-championship game is in the shot that just barely misses, and the pointing throw that doesn’t quite gain the point. Such failures turn over the boule advantage to the opposing team.  At this level of play, it is highly probable that the team that throws the last boule will be the team that wins the mène. Or to put it the other way ’round: losing the boule advantage can mean losing the mène.

Will you point? or shoot?

Consider this situation. Your team has two pointers and one shooter. The opponents throw the jack and point a very nice first boule. It is close to the jack and is going to be very hard to out-point. What do you do?

  • Should you ask your shooter to try to shoot it?
  • But… it is very early in the mene, and the opposing team still has five boules. Should you save your shooter, keeping him in reserve for an emergency, and try to out-point the opponent’s boule with your first boule?

Here you’re confronting petanque’s classic question — to point? or to shoot?  If you decide to point, you may end up with another classic situation— your team ends up throwing all of its boules, trying to out-point the opponents’ opening boule. After you’ve done it, you realize that you’ve lost the boule advantage big time. The opposing team still has five boules that it can play without any fear of a response from your team. And you realize, in retrospect, that you should have used your shooter to try to shoot that opening boule rather than trying to out-point it.

If this happens to you, here’s how you should think about the situation.

  • Your team started with the boule advantage.  You might have kept the boule advantage if you had brought out your shooter and shot the opposing team’s opening boule. Even if it took your shooter more than one attempt, it would have been worth it to get rid of that dangerous opening boule.
  • But in deciding not to shoot, you not only lost the advantage, you gave the advantage to your opponents, to the tune of five boules. With that kind of boule advantage, they are almost certainly going to win the mene.

The moral here is that one of your highest priorities should be NOT to lose the boule advantage. And that can sometimes mean using your shooter very early in the mene.

The Forgotten Boule and the Boule Advantage

Consider this situation. There are a lot of boules on the ground. Your team has the point. You ask the opponents if they have any more boules to play. They look around and then say “No, we’re out”.  So you play your last boule.  As you’re walking to the head to count your points, one of the opposing players says “Ooops! I made a mistake. I still have one boule left!”  What should you do?

If you say “It was an honest mistake. Go ahead. Play your last boule,” you are making a big mistake. Look at it this way— Your team had the boule advantage, the right to throw the last boule. The opposing player’s mistake (even if it was an honest mistake, and not an attempt to cheat) took the boule advantage away from your team and gave it to his own team. If he is allowed to play that last “forgotten” boule, he will be playing the last boule in the mene. And with that last boule, he can do all sorts of mischief. He can win the mene for his own team.

The bottom line? In a “forgotten boule situation”— even in friendly play— it is best to go by the book. According to the rules a forgotten boule should be declared dead. It should not be played.