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


How to drink pastis

Pastis is a strong (45% alcohol) French anise and licorice liqueur, somewhat similar to Greece’s ouzo and Lebanon’s arak. It is part of the traditional culture of the south of France, Marseille, and pétanque.

Ricard, the best-known maker of pastis, has for many decades been the most prominent sponsor of petanque tournaments and events. Another well-known brand is Pernod, which however does not call itself a pastis. The two companies, Ricard and Pernod, merged in 1974, although the brands are still separate.


The traditional way to drink pastis is —

  • Pour a 1/2 inch of pastis into a glass.
  • Add cold water to dilute it to about five (or seven) parts water to one part pastis. The water will instantly and magically transform your pastis from a clear amber color to a milky greenish-yellow.
  • Add an ice cube or two, but not more. Ice is optional and some purists forbid it, preferring to use cool water only. But if you use ice, it must be added after the water to avoid crystallization of the anethol in the pastis.
  • Sip slowly on a sunny terrace at the end of the afternoon.

I love the change in color and the fact that you can re-dilute your pastis once you’ve drunk it down a ways, to extend it and, perhaps, sober up a bit. I also love the way pastis gives you a roaring appetite. … Try it with a bowl of tapenade, good olive oil and some rounds of crusty bread, and you’re set for the beginning of a great meal.

Pastis may also be taken by itself as an aperitif. Or you can drink it like an American — pastis with Coca-Cola or 7-Up, or in a pastis cocktail.

In any event, never store pastis in the refrigerator.

Fanny – the goddess of petanque

Fanny is, as it were, the patron saint (or perhaps, goddess) of petanque.

Ste Fanny priez pour nous - Saint Fanny, pray for us

Ste Fanny priez pour nous! — Saint Fanny, pray for us!

Being fanny (être fanny) means losing a game of boules or pétanque without scoring a single point— losing 13 to zero. (In the USA, we call that a “shutout” game.) Having to kiss Fanny is the ultimate humiliation for boules players everywhere. But it’s also possible to have a lot of fun with Fanny.

Fanny... 13 to 0!

Fanny… 13 to 0!

In one version of the legend, Fanny was a waitress at the Café de Grand-Lemps just after World War I. She was so kindhearted that she would allow customers who had lost a game of boules without scoring a single point to kiss her… on the cheek. One day the village mayor lost a game and came to collect his “prize”. No one knows what prompted Fanny… perhaps she was unhappy with the mayor for some reason. She lifted her skirt and, one might say, turned the other cheek! The mayor never hesitated, though, and less than a second later two loud kisses resounded through the café. This was the beginning of a tradition that requires a player (or team) that loses a game without scoring any points to kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny.

The ceremonial humiliation often involves kneeling for the kiss and includes the ringing of a bell. (Note the gentleman at the right, ringing a hand bell.)fanny_kissing_old_photo

And that is why wherever boules is played in France, a painting or a poster or a sculpture of stone or pottery is proudly displayed… …ready to be kissed, in public, by the unlucky (malheureux) losers.


“Malheureux aux jeux. Heureux en amour.”
“Unlucky at sports. Lucky in love”



Often the losers have to buy drinks for the winning team— “Fanny paie à boire” — “Fanny’s buying the drinks!”

Although Marcel Pagnol often wrote about pétanque, and the film Fanny includes a famous game, the tradition is unconnected with him.

Like many mythical heroines, Fanny’s origins are a little murky. One version has it that she was a boules groupie in Lyon – the kind of girl whom today you might see hanging around soccer players. Another is that she was a café waitress in Isère. The Provençal version, which is naturally the the one I take as gospel, is that she worked in a bar overlooking the boulodrome in La Ciotat, where pétanque was invented.

— Peter Mayle, Provençe A-Z

Although petanque players usually claim Fanny as an exclusively petanque icon, Fanny can be traced back at least to the mid-1800s when boule lyonnaise and other bocce-like boules variants were popular and petanque hadn’t yet been invented. One bocce web site claims that Fanny came into being in Lyon around 1860 — and has the pictures to prove it. Here is Fanny with bocce balls — or perhaps boules lyonnaises — not petanque boules.

Au joueur malheureux, comme au chasseur bredouille,
Il reste un doux espoir, quant le Match est fini:
C’est d’embrasser, ému, la superbe Citrouille
Qu’offre au vaincu “l’envers” dodu de la Fanny

To the unfortunate player,
as to the empty-handed hunter,
There remains a sweet hope,
when the game is over:
it is to kiss, with emotion,
the beautiful pumpkin
that is offered to the vanquished,
the plump “backside” of Fanny

Perhaps the most charming representation of Fanny that I’ve seen is a little statuette that Patrick LeThorois photographed at an antiques fair in Isle sur la Sorgue. Again, note the large boules lyonnaises near her feet. The small ball in front of her feet is the target ball, the pallino.

Here is a “shrine” to Fanny modeled on a traditional prayer bench (kneeler, prie dieu). Note the bell at the top.

To see more of Fanny, visit this gallery of representations of Fanny, or the Fanny page at Musée de la Boule.