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Two players are playing singles. In the middle of the second mène (end, round), the score is 1-0. This happens.
A) Is the jack dead or alive?
B) Assuming the jack is dead, which player plays the next boule? Why?
C) Assuming the jack is alive, which player plays the next boule? Why?
This one is just for fun. There are 5 questions; two points per question. Ten points wins you bragging rights. Entries will be judged on correctness, completeness, and clarity. Submit your answers in a comment. This post will be edited to provide the correct answers and name the winners.
Quiz closes midnight, Wednesday April 28, 2021. The quiz is now closed. But if you would like to challenge yourself, you’re still free to take it. The answers are available HERE.
Here is a great tip that I just got from Raymond Ager. He’s living in France now, and (obviously!) has been playing a lot of pétanque with French players.
During the agreement of points, a good way to start is by removing all boules that are obviously scoring. After that’s done, it’s much easier to measure, if necessary, to determine any additional points.
Here’s something that isn’t in the rules, says Ray, but is how a lot of people play.
The team that lost the end removes what they consider are the opponent’s scoring boules.
That way it’s perfectly clear that the losing team accepts those boules as scoring boules.
What often happens is that the winning team is eager to claim their points. They walk to the head, say something like “well, 3 points for sure”, and immediately remove their supposedly-scoring boules before the opponents have a chance to verify and agree. That’s when the arguments begin— “But you only had 2”, etc. etc.
That’s why this tip is so useful. It forestalls that kind of debate.
The losing team removes the opponent’s obviously-scoring boules. Then we measure.
The team that threw the last boule does the measuring. [Article 26]
The basic subdivision of a game of petanque is a mène, pronounced like the English word “men”. Roughly speaking, a mène consists of three activities – placing the circle and throwing the jack, throwing the boules, and the agreement of points. A 1971 Canadian Petanque Federation rules booklet defines a mène this way–
When all of the players have played all of their boules, we say that they have played a mène. A game is composed of whatever number of mènes is necessary for one of the teams to score a winning number of points.
As a subdivision of a game, a mène is similar to an “end” in curling or lawn bowls (a traditional British boules-type game), a “frame” in American bowling, an “inning” in baseball, a “round” in boxing, or a “set” in tennis.
- The English version of the FIPJP rules is a translation into British English, so it translates mène using the lawn bowls term “end“.
- When Jean Bontemps made the first American English translation in the 1960s, he translated mène using the American baseball term “inning“.
- American petanque players often refer to a mène as a “round“.
- The most literal English translation of the ordinary French word mène is probably “direction“, as in “First we played in one direction, then we turned around and played in the other direction.”
In my opinion, in the context of the rules of petanque, mène should be treated as a game-specific technical term and simply adopted, not translated. Every sport has its own specialized terminology for the subdivisions of a game. Tennis has sets, baseball has innings, boxing has rounds, basketball has quarters, bowling has frames. Why shouldn’t petanque have mènes? In English we can make one concession to English-language spelling conventions— we can omit the accent and write simply “mene“.
One of the frequently-asked questions about menes is “When does a mene start and end?” Another way of asking the same question is: “What kinds of events mark the start, and the finish, of a mene?” You can find the answer to that question HERE.
Cette porte mène à la cave.
This door leads to the cellar.
This door goes to the cellar.
This door takes you to the cellar.
When mène is used as a noun— la mène— the most literal English translation is probably “a direction”, as in “This door is the way to the cellar. This door is the direction to the cellar.”
[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
We sent our resident mad scientist back to the lab and asked him to cook up a more compact version of our 2020 rules booklet. Now he’s back with his latest effort.
The booklet, along with the 2020 rules in other languages and formats, can be found on our RULES ARCHIVE page.
[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
The 2020 version of the FIPJP rules contains new rules about where the jack may be thrown or placed. This has prompted players to ask questions like this one on Ask the Umpire.
The rules say that the jack must be thrown on the assigned terrain (see Article 6). So the question essentially boils down to this—
What does “on the assigned terrain” mean? Is a thrown jack straddling a side guide line considered to be “on the assigned terrain”?
The answer to this question was provided by Mike Pegg. The thrown jack must be touching the ground of the assigned lane.
A jack that is touching the ground inside the line is valid even if it is also touching the the line (string) around the assigned lane. Because the jack is larger than the string, if the jack is touching the string, it will also be slightly bulging over the string. That’s OK. The jack is valid.
The rules are similar, but not exactly the same, for the throwing circle. To be considered “on the assigned lane”, the entire circle must be inside the boundary lines of the lane. The side of the circle may touch the line, but the circle cannot extend over the line.
[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
For many years, Article 16 of the FIPJP rules said this: “It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack.” Its counterpart in the rules of Petanque Libre was: When a player plays a boule, the boule must be clean and dry (weather permitting). I assumed that it was an anti-mud rule, like the rule that you must clean mud off of a boule before measuring. (You have to measure to the surface of the boule, not to the surface of a mud coating.)
It seemed a straightforward rule, so I was surprised when it was removed in 2020. If it was so straightforward, then why, I wondered, was it removed? And I began to wonder— If the FIPJP international umpires were so willing to remove it, why was it in the rules in the first place? I started surfing around the web, looking for answers.
Why did the moistening rule exist in the first place?
When I was a beginning player, a friend told me that a wet boule will pick up dirt as it rolls, slowing it down. To my friend, playing with a wet boule was like playing with a stuffed boule— a form of cheating. Just as stuffed boules are forbidden, so wet boules are forbidden.
This seemed implausible to me. It seemed unlikely that a wet boule could pick up enough dirt as it rolled to significantly affect its motion. If it could, the amount of dirt and its effect would be unpredictable.
Another theory is that the rule is designed to keep players from spitting on their boules, a gross, unhygienic practice that harms the image of the game. Not likely. If you want to prohibit players from spitting on their boules, write a rule prohibiting spitting on boules, like the rule that prohibits smoking during a game.
There is another theory. With a bit of moisture on a boule, some players can throw a boule whose trajectory will curve in mid-air, like a spitball in baseball. That gives skillful players an unfair advantage over less-skillful players, an advantage that is somehow “outside the spirit of the game.” But I don’t buy that, either. First, I doubt that it is possible to throw a curving spitball with a petanque boule. Certainly, it has never been shown to be possible. Even if it is possible, I don’t think that it would be a useful skill in petanque— unlike in baseball, a shooter or a pointer isn’t trying to get around an opposing player standing in the head. And even if it is useful, I see no reason to ban it. Certainly there is nothing unfair about some players being more skillful than others.
Another theory is that a little moisture on the hand (and so on the boule) gives a player a better grip on the boule. This seems to me plausible and true. Jac Verheul says—
Behind many of these theories, in addition to the idea that playing with wet boules must provide some kind of advantage, is the idea that that advantage— whatever it is— must somehow be unfair. I don’t understand that idea, and 15 years ago neither did Graeme Burnard. Graeme was (still is?) a member of Petanque New Zealand. In 2006, he wrote a post called Rules, Rules, Bloody Rules in which he rails against petanque rules that make no sense— stupid rules. One of the stupid rules is the moistening rule, aka the “wetting the rag rule”.
Listening to Jac and Graeme, I’m beginning to understand that for all practical purposes, the moistening rule wasn’t a rule against moistening the boules. It was a rule against playing with a wet boule towel.
This is from Graeme’s post.
Yes, I wet my rag. Oh my God. I gave myself an advantage over the other 47 teams. It worked too. We went from 27th to 26th place. Now, I understand it is illegal to wet one’s rag as it gives one an unfair advantage over the opposition. Excuse me? Isn’t that about as silly as banning sunglasses, hats with a brim, sleeveless shirts, crutchless underwear. Wouldn’t they all give you some advantage over someone who was wearing no hat, and wearing overalls and woolen long johns when it’s 30 degrees Centigrade.
I actually used my rag to put around my neck to cool off. Having suffered in the last 12 years from Legionnaires Disease, a heart attack and a mild stroke (and I am not yet 50) I get tired easily and feel the heat and now some tosser is going to tell me I cannot wet my rag to cool off. Apparently the rule actually relates to wetting your boule, but I cannot see how that can give you an advantage. What scientific studies have been done to ascertain this and wouldn’t the boule blow dry itself as it sailed through the air on its way to a perfect carreau so any advantage would soon disappear?
I understand that one player in last year’s Trans Tasman had his wet rag taken off him. I mean, really, have you ever heard of anything so stupid.
In a comment on the post, Andy Gilbert (National & International Arbiter) wrote—
So again we see the moistening rule being interpreted as forbidding players from playing with a wet boule towel.
There are a couple of comments on Graeme’s post that I find especially interesting. In the first, Tom van Bodegraven says—
In the second, Michael E writes—
Note that what we’re seeing in these two comments is a grassroots call for the removal of the moistening rule. This is in 2006, 15 years before the FIPJP actually did remove it.
In another comment, Michael E notes that although New Zealand umpires interpret the moistening rule as a ban on wet boule towels, some other umpires do not.
Michael goes on to make the same point that Jac Verheul made earlier.—
All of that was being floated as long ago as 2006. And it still is. Apparently, not long ago, at an international competition, there was an incident involving an umpire, a wet boule towel, and a Thai player who was using the wet boule towel to help keep cool. (I don’t know any more details of the incident. If you do, I’d appreciate it if you left a comment.)
What was the moistening rule REALLY about?
I think it’s fair to say that nobody has been able to offer a good reason for the moistening rule, and that nobody knows why the rule was originally inserted into the FIPJP rules. What is certain, however, is that umpires widely interpreted the rule as banning players from playing with wet boule towels or rags.
This is a problem. Many players actually do like to use a wet boule towel, and they have good reasons for doing so. In hot, tropical climates, carrying a wet boule towel can help a player stay cool. A wet boule towel can help keep a player’s hands from becoming uncomfortably dry. Above all, a wet boule towel may improve a player’s grip by keeping his/her hands slightly damp.
These benefits (or “advantages” if you will) should be available to all players. Some players believe that the FIPJP rules forbid players from wearing gloves because wearing gloves gives a player an “unfair advantage”. They are mistaken. The FIPJP rules do not forbid glove-wearing, and any benefits/advantages that gloves confer are not unfair— they are available to all players equally. If I’m wearing gloves and you want to wear gloves too, you can. The same (now, in 2021) is finally true of carrying a wet boule towel.
Why was the moistening rule removed?
Now that it’s gone, we can ask: Why was the moistening rule removed?
Mike Pegg says that the rule was removed “because it is extremely difficult if not impossible for the umpire to enforce/check that each and every player is not using a damp cloth.” Note Mike’s reference— not to damp boules but to a damp cloth.
I doubt if we’re ever going to find out why the moistening rule was removed now, in 2020. But given that there never was a good reason for the rule, and given the fact that players have been deeply unhappy with the rule for decades, it seems silly to ask why the rule was removed now. The appropriate question is— Why wasn’t it removed years ago?
[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
The FIPJP rules have changed. With the 2020 version of the rules comes an almost completely different set of constraints on how far the circle or the thrown jack must be from obstacles, dead-ball lines, and jacks and circles in neighboring lanes. The new rules are in Article 7.
With respect to circles or jacks in neighboring games:
- The placed circle or jack must be at least 1.5 meters from any other active circle or jack.
With respect to obstacles:
- The circle must be at least 1 meter from any obstacle.
- The jack must be at least 50 cm from any obstacle. (This was reduced from the old requirement of 1 meter.)
With respect to end lines:
- The jack must be at least 50cm from any end line. (This was reduced from the old requirement of 1 meter.)
With respect to side guide lines and dead-ball lines:
- There is no required minimum distance between the circle and a side line.
- There is no required minimum distance between the jack and a side line, even if it is a dead-ball line. (This constraint was abolished.) As long as the jack is touching the ground of the assigned lane, it can be touching a side line, and even slightly extending over it. A thrown jack is not like a hit jack, which can be resting on dead ground but straddling the dead-ball line and still be good. (See THIS.)
Here’s another way to remember the new minimum distance requirements. Click to view larger image.
For both the circle and the jack, there are two “orbits”, or required minimum distances: an outer orbit and an inner orbit.
- For both the circle and the jack, the outer orbit is at 1.5 meters. It’s for another circle or jack.
- For the circle, the inner orbit is at 1m. It’s for throwing obstacles.
- For the jack, the inner orbit is at 0.5m. It’s for pointing obstacles. Physical objects and the end line of a lane are both pointing obstacles.
For the circle… the team that places the circle must put it in a location that meets all of the distance requirements for the circle. If they drop the circle onto the ground around the jack’s former location, and they see (for example) that the circle is too close to an obstacle, then they must move the circle until it is 1m away from the obstacle before throwing the jack.
For the jack… the team that throws the jack must throw the jack to a location that meets all of the distance requirements for the jack. If they throw the jack, and they see (for example) that it is too close to an obstacle, then they have failed to throw the jack to a valid location— they must give the jack to the opponents. Then the opponents must place the jack (by hand) in a location. that meets all of these requirements.
Worst-case scenarios under the new rules
Options for throwing the jack are most limited on a 3-meter-wide lane with active jacks in neighboring games kissing the boundary strings on both sides. The full width of the lane is available only if you throw the jack to 6-7 meters. There is no place on the lane where you can throw the jack to 8.5 meters. (In this diagram, pink areas show the “landing strip” for the jack— areas where a player may throw or place the jack.)
[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
The FIPJP has just released a new/revised version of the international rules of petanque. You can download a copy of the 2020 version of the rules (in pdf format) from the FIPJP or CEP web sites. You can also download a copy of the new version (in pdf or docx format) from our archives page. Our archives page also has files generated by Microsoft Word showing the differences between the 2016 rules and the 2020 rules. There is also a link to a quick online reference page where you can easily read the rules on your smart phone.
Here is an overview of the changes in the 2020 rules. First I list some minor changes to the rules, then I list the more substantial changes.
Minor changes to the rules
1. A few paragraphs have been moved to slightly different places. In a few places, the wording of the rules has been slightly improved. In the French rules, the word for a singles game (tête-à-tête) has been replaced by the word individuel. In Article 20, the expression terrain jouable has been changed to terrain autorisé. References to the “penalties” specified in Article 35 have been changed to references to the “sanctions” specified there. References to “the umpire” have been replaced by “an umpire”.
2. In Article 22, a boule moved by a boule in the game is no longer “valid”; now it “remains in its new position.” But in Article 12, a jack moved by a boule in the game is still “valid”.
3. Errors left in the text after the 2016 revision have been corrected. In Article 8, the sentence “If any team proceeds differently, it loses the benefit of the throwing of the jack” has been removed. The incorrect reference to the “second paragraph of Article 8″ in Article 16, was corrected to “third paragraph”.
4. Over the years, the umpires have tried to specify— everywhere in the rules— that an illegally-moved boule or jack could be put it back in its original location, provided it was marked. Now they’ve fixed a few places that they’d missed earlier. [Article 22, Article 23]
5. Now: the rules explicitly state that boules must be hollow (creuse). [Article 2]
6. Now: if a disabled player plays with only one foot inside the circle, “the other foot must not be in front of it.”
7. Now: no-one, as a test, may throw their boules during a game including away from the lane where they are playing.
Substantive changes to the rules
1. [Article 6] [Article 12]
Formerly Article 12 said: “To avoid any argument, the players must mark the jack’s position. No claim can be accepted regarding boules or jack whose positions have not been marked.” This was widely, although not universally, interpreted as a hypothetical imperative— “If you want to avoid arguments, then you must mark the jack’s position.” This rule has been REMOVED from Article 12.
It has been REPLACED by a new rule in Article 6: “The players must mark the position of the jack initially and after each time it is moved. No claims will be allowed for an unmarked jack and the umpire will rule only on the position of the jack on the terrain.” This rule is clearly a requirement, not a hypothetical imperative. Players must mark the position of the thrown-or-placed jack, and must mark the jack’s location again every time it is subsequently moved. The jack may be marked by any player in the game, but in the event of a problem caused by an unmarked jack, the player who threw (or placed or last moved) the jack will be given a warning (a yellow card).
2. [Article 7] Throw away all of your old rules about how far the circle or the thrown jack must be from… whatever. The new rules are different. You can find our discussion of the new rules, complete with colorful diagrams, HERE.
One of the changes is that the throwing circle or thrown jack must be at least 1.5m from any other active circle or jack. Why 1.5m? I think it must be because 3m is the minimum width of a terrain in regional competitions. Half that width is just about the right distance to be effective and workable on a 3m-wide terrain.
Formerly the rule was that a thrown jack must be 1 meter away from a side dead-ball line in normal games, and 50 cm in time-limited games. That rule was abolished. Now the jack may cuddle up to a side line, whether or not it is a dead-ball line. Mike Pegg says that the reason for changing the rule was to provide “more room to play and a uniform distance for timed and not timed games.” Note that this means that a thrown jack is not like a hit jack, which can straddle a dead-ball line and still be good. In order for a thrown jack to be valid, it must be touching the ground on the assigned lane.
3. [Article 8] If Team A fails to throw a valid jack, the opponents must place it on the terrain at a valid position. ADDED: “If the jack is not placed in a valid position by the second team, the player who placed it shall be subject to the penalties outlined in article 35. In the event of a repeat offence, a new card will be issued to the whole team, in addition to any cards previously received.”
This change addresses a frequently-asked question about the 2016 rules: “If Albert, on Team A, fails to place the jack in a valid location, should he (or Team A) be penalized, or merely instructed to place it properly?” The rules now answer that question— he should be penalized.
In fact the 2020 rules provide a remarkably detailed account of how the penalty must be imposed. Suppose that Albert fails to place a valid jack. The umpire gives him a warning (yellow card). Then, if any player on Albert’s team fails to place a valid jack (a repeat of the same offense), a yellow card (warning) will be imposed on Albert and on each of his teammates.
4. [Article 16] REMOVED: “It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack.” Mike Pegg says that the rule was removed “because it is extremely difficult if not impossible for the umpire to enforce/check that each and every player is not using a damp cloth.” For our discussion of this rule, see THIS.
5. [Article 28] The phrase “or disturbs” was added to the first sentence, like this: “The team, whose player displaces or disturbs the jack or one of the contested boules, while effecting a measurement, loses the point. If, during the measurement of a point, the Umpire disturbs or displaces the jack or a boule…” This was probably added in order to increase the parallelism between the two sentences. But it is problematic. Up to now a player who gently bumps a boule (it rocks in place but doesn’t change location) has been held not to have displaced it. Now I wonder whether or not bumping but not moving a boule counts as “disturbing” it. Mike Pegg says that merely touching a boule counts as disturbing it.
6. [Article 32] [Article 33] Formerly a team was eliminated from the competition if it was late by more than an hour; now they will be eliminated if they are more than 30 minutes late.
7. [Article 33, Late arrival of players] ADDED: After the first end of a game… “the following ends are considered to have started as soon as the last boule from the previous end has stopped.” For a long time it has been the standard practice in time-limited games to deem one end to have finished, and the next end to have started, when the last boule thrown in the end comes to rest. Now this same criterion has been adopted by the FIPJP rules for the purposes of determining when a late-arriving player may join a game.
About the English version of the FIPJP rules
A few minor translation errors have been fixed. However, two important errors have not been fixed.
► Article 16 still mistranslates point nul as “dead end” rather than “null point”.
► Article 29 still mistranslates une mene nulle both as an end that is “dead” and “null and void”. Translating the same French expression into English in two completely different ways is a problem. A bigger problem is that it misses the best translation for une mene nulle, which is “a scoreless end”.
A rule that regularly provokes questions from players occurs in Article 28.
The point is lost by a team if one of its players, while making a measurement, displaces the jack or one of the contested boules.
Much of the confusion is caused by the phrase “the point is lost…” and the sloppy way in which players, umpires, and the FIPJP rules often use the expression “to have the point” when they mean “is closer than”. It would have been much better if the rule had been written this way.
If a player, while making a measurement, displaces the jack or one of the contested boules, then the offending team’s boule is considered to be farther from the jack than the offended team’s boule.
If the rule had been written that way, there would be far fewer questions about what the rule means and how to apply it.
I call this the Frozen Triangle Rule. The Frozen Triangle Rule assumes that we’re dealing with a simple case involving two contested boules, A2 and B2, and the jack. A measurement is being made in order to answer the question— Which boule is closer to the jack?
Suppose that Albert (a player from Team A) is doing the measuring. While measuring, Albert accidentally moves one of the boules or the jack. Instantly:
- The relationships between the contested boules and the jack become frozen, in effect forming a triangle.
- In this frozen triangle, the boule belonging to the offended team (in this case, Team B) is considered to be closer to the jack than the boule belonging to the offending team. B2 is “frozen” closer to the jack than A2.
Since B2 is closer to the jack than A2, Team B has the point; Team A must play the next boule.
The frozen triangle can be broken or unfrozen if later in the game the jack or one of the contested boules is moved. But as long as none of the balls in the triangle is moved, the triangle remains frozen and the offended team’s boule is considered to be closer to the jack than the offending team’s boule. This is true during subsequent measurements to determine which team plays next, and it is true during the agreement of points.
As soon as a player accidentally moves a ball, regardless of whether it is his or the opponent’s ball, he loses the benefit of the measure. The point, concerning this measure, remains with the opposing team until something has moved. This is why when instructing umpires we tell them to stay on the spot until something has changed. If he was measuring the boules closest to the jack, his team must play next. [Mike Pegg]
The players should carefully mark each of the boules that were being contested, and the jack, in order to determine if they are subsequently moved during the round. If they remain unmoved at the end of the round, the opponents of the team who made the measuring error are declared to hold the point between the two boules that were being contested, even if their boule would no longer measure as closer. On the other hand, if either boule or the jack is subsequently moved during play, the declaration described above is rescinded, and each boule stands on its own merit via the normal measuring procedure. [FPUSA umpire’s guide, 2015 edition]
In the quote from Mike Pegg, the last sentence is important. If [the player] was measuring the boules closest to the jack, his team must play next. In our first diagram (above), A2 and B2 are indeed the boules closest to the jack. So in that situation, as Mike points out, Team A plays next.
But consider a different situation. In this situation A1 is closest to the jack, so Team A has the point. Albert is measuring A2 and B2 in order to determine which boule is second-closest. As before, Albert bumps a ball. Instantly A2, B2 and the jack are frozen into a triangle, with B2 closer than A2. Now the boules (in order of their distance from the jack) are A1, B2, and A2. Team A still has the point and so (unlike the previous situation) Team B plays the next boule.
As I noted earlier, much of the confusion surrounding this rule is the result of sloppy writing in the FIPJP rules, and specifically in the way that Article 28 says that “the team loses the point”. What Article 28 should say is that the team’s contested boule is considered to be farther from the jack. In our second situation, when Albert moved a contested ball, his team did NOT lose the point. A1 is still closest to the jack, so Team A still has the point. Team B plays the next boule.
The Dead Ground Rule in Article 9 says that “The jack is dead … when an out-of-bounds area [terrain interdit, dead ground] is situated between the jack and the throwing circle.” What does “between the jack and the throwing circle” mean?
Consider this diagram. (Note that it is not drawn to scale.) A game is being played on an L-shaped terrain. The jack has been knocked to a place where it is almost, but not completely, “around the corner” from the circle. Or, to put it another way, an area of dead ground is protruding into the terrain; it may possibly be blocking the line of play between the circle and the jack.
The players are uncertain what to do; they are asking questions: Is the jack alive or dead? Is there dead ground between jack and the circle?
What does “between the jack and the circle” mean?
The answer is that “between the jack and the circle” means “between the jack and any part of the circle”.
Suppose you draw lines from the jack to all of the parts of the circle, as in this diagram. If any of those lines crosses dead ground, then there is dead ground between the jack and the circle, and the jack is dead.
Mike Pegg described the rule this way on “Ask the Umpire”.
Imagine two lines extending from the two sides of the circle to the jack. If there is any dead ground between those two lines, the jack is dead.
Visual inspection should be enough to resolve the situation, but if it isn’t, you can take a long tape measure and pull it tight between the jack and various random points on the circle. If in any of those positions the tape crosses dead ground, there is dead ground between the jack and the circle, and the jack is dead.