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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 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 it 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.
Players sometimes ask— Is a wooden sideboard an obstacle? What they mean is— If the circle’s default location is less than a meter from a sideboard, can (or should) the circle be moved away from the sideboard? Players ask this question when they are concerned that a squat pointer might hit his hand on the sideboard; sometimes they are concerned about a player throwing from a wheelchair.
On “Ask the Umpire” Mike Pegg has given different anwers to this question at different time. In answer to one player he stated that a wooden sideboard is not an obstacle, and if a squat pointer is concerned about hitting the sideboard, he can stand, rather than squat, when pointing. In answer to another player he stated that normally a sideboard is not an obstacle, but if the board is higher than 20cm it is an obstacle, because “at this height or higher it may impede a player.” In answer to another player he stated that a board of 25cm is an obstacle.
The problem here is that the FIPJP rules never define the word “obstacle”, so it is really an open question whether any particular thing (such as a sideboard) is a throwing obstacle. The sensible thing, therefore, is to define what we mean by a throwing obstacle. I propose that we define it as something that might prevent a player from throwing with his normal throwing form, or something that might cause injury to a player if he plays with his normal throwing form.
If we do that, then the answer to the question depends on the particular circumstance. In normal circumstances a wooden sideboard is not considered to be an obstacle. But in a situation where it might prevent a player from throwing with his normal throwing form, or might cause injury to a player if he plays with his normal throwing form, then it should be considered an obstacle and the circle should be moved away from it. So the answer to the question is:
Normally a wooden sideboard is not considered to be a throwing obstacle, but in some cases it is.
Moving the circle away from a throwing obstacle is something that should be done before the jack is thrown. That means that if your team has a squat pointer as a member, or a player in a wheelchair, and you’re concerned about the surround, don’t hesitate. SPEAK UP! Don’t wait until after the jack has been thrown (or placed) to voice your concern, because by then it is too late.
See also our post on What is an obstacle?
Here is a quick review. The rule about which team throws the next boule is this.
If the point is decided, the team that does not have the point plays next. If the point is undecided, the teams play alternately until the point is decided, starting with the team that threw the ball that created the undecided point.
The ball that created the undecided point is the last ball that was thrown before the point became undecided. It may have been a boule or the jack.
Some background concepts
- Assuming that the jack is still alive and both teams still have unplayed boules, there are two possible situations.
- One of the teams has the point, or
- neither team has the point.
If one of the teams has the point, the point is said to be “decided“. If neither team has the point, the point is said to be “undecided“. (The French term is point nul. See Article 16.)
- There are two situations in which the point is undecided.
- The best boules of the two teams are the same distance from the jack (an “equidistant boules” situation).
- There are no boules on the terrain (an “empty terrain” situation).
- There are two ways to create an empty terrain situation.
- One of the teams throws the jack. At that point no boules have yet been thrown and the terrain is empty. The ball that created the empty terrain, the last ball thrown, was the jack.
- There are boules on the terrain. A player throws a boule that knocks out all of the boules on the terrain, and the thrown boule also rolls out-of-bounds. This leaves the terrain empty. The ball that created the empty terrain, the last ball thrown, was the boule that knocked everything out-of-bounds.
If both teams still have unplayed boules, there are two rules for determining which team throws the next boule. One rule is used when the point is decided and the other rule is used when it is not.
- If the point is decided, the team that does NOT have the point throws the next boule.
- If the point is undecided, the teams throw alternately until the point is decided, starting with the team that threw the ball that created the undecided point, i.e. the last ball that was thrown before the point became undecided. It may have been a boule or the jack.
These rules are described in Article 16 and Article 29 of the FIPJP rules (see below for the text of those articles). Unfortunately, those articles don’t describe the procedure as systematically as I have. As a consequence, players are often confused about the rules and puzzled about how to apply them in unusual situations. Let’s look at some unusual situations and see how they should be handled.
(A) The opening boules keep getting thrown out-of-bounds.
What if the first boule thrown goes out-of-bounds?
What if the first boule and the second boule go out-of-bounds?
In these situations the throw of the jack, rather than the throw of a boule, creates an empty terrain situation. Following the standard rule, the teams play alternately, starting with Team A, the team that threw the jack and created the undecided point. If A1 goes out-of-bounds, then the point has not been decided (the terrain is still empty), so Team B continues alternating play by throwing its first boule, B1. And so on. In an extreme situation, if each of the first four boules (A1, A2, B1, B2) goes out of bounds, play looks like this.
- Team A throws the jack (creating an empty terrain situation).
- Team A throws boule A1 (to start alternating play).
- Team B throws B1 (continues alternating play).
- Team A throws A2 (continues alternating play).
- Team B throws B2 (continues alternating play).
- Team A throws A3.
(B) An equidistant boules situation comes back from the dead.
An equidistant boules situation is typically created when Team A points boule A1, Team B points boule B1, and B1 comes to rest at the same distance from the jack as A1. (This is the situation at the left in the diagram, below.) When that happens, Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2. This is all very much business-as-usual. But sometimes, something unusual happens, like this.
- B2 gains the point. (This is the situation at the center in the diagram, below.)
- Team A throws A2, which knocks away B2. A1 and B1 are again in an equidistant boules situation. (This is the situation at the right in the diagram, below.)
Players sometimes think of this as “bringing back” the original equidistant boules situation. This is a mistake. What has happened is that another equidistant boules situation has been created. Equidistant boules situations are like solar eclipses. They can happen over and over again, sometimes involving the same objects in the same arrangement, but each episode is a different event. The throw of B1 created an equidistant boules situation that lasted until it was ended by the throw of B2. The throw of A2 removed B2 and created another equidistant boules situation. It is a different situation from the previous situation, just as this year’s solar eclipse is a different event from last year’s. Team A throws the next boule, A3, to start alternating play.
(C) One of the equidistant boules is exactly replaced.
Suppose that Team A points boule A1. Team B points boule B1, which comes to rest at exactly the same distance from the jack as A1. Team B starts alternating play; they throw boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But the shot misses! B2 knocks away B1 away and exactly replaces it. Now, A1 and B2 are equidistant.
Players sometimes think this has created “a new undecided point” (“c’est un nouveau point nul“) “because it is a different boule that is now equidistant from the jack.” This is a mistake. The boules involved have absolutely no bearing on the handling of an undecided point. What is important is whether or not the point has been decided. While it is true that the boules involved have changed (and in this sense there is “a new situation”), the relevant fact is that the point was not decided. Alternating play therefore continues. Since Team B was the last to play, Team A throws next.
(D) An equidistant boules situation is converted into an empty terrain situation.
Suppose that Team A throws boule A1. Team B throws boule B1, which ends up exactly equidistant from the jack. Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2. Team B wants to shoot A1, but B2 knocks both A1 and B1 out-of-bounds and then itself rolls out of bounds. There are no boules left on the terrain.
Players sometimes think that this creates “a new undecided point” because an equidistant boules situation was changed into an empty terrain situation. This is a mistake. As I said in connection with the previous situation: while it is true that the situation has changed, the relevant fact is that the point was not decided. Alternating play therefore continues. Since Team B was the last to play, Team A throws next.
The relevant articles in the FIPJP rules of petanque.
If the first boule played goes into an out-of-bounds area, it is for the opponent to play, then alternately as long as there are no boules in the in-bounds area. If no boule is left in the in-bounds area after a shooting throw or a pointing throw, apply the provisions of Article 29 concerning an undecided point (point nul).
Article 29 – Boules equidistant from the jack
When the two boules closest to the jack belong to different teams and are at an equal distance from it... If both teams still have boules, the team that played the last boule plays again, then the opposing team, and so on alternately until the point belongs to one of them.
How do you say the score in petanque?
Before we look at the question of how to say or report the score in a game of petanque, let’s look at the general question of how to report the score of a game in any sport. Suppose that you are a spectator watching a game between Team A which has 3 points and Team B which has 4 points. Team A is the host (“home”) team; Team B is the visiting (“away”) team. You turn to your companion and say “Now the score is…”
- If you are in the USA, you probably say the highest score first, e.g. “4-3” or “4-3 in favor of Team B”. In most American sports this is the customary practice during the game, and the almost universal practice after the game is over and the winner is known: the winner’s score is given first, followed by the loser’s score: “9-8, Team B”.
- You may say the score of the home team first (“3-4”) or the score of the visiting team first (“4-3”). Giving the score of the visiting team first seems to be an American custom, originating with American baseball. The rest of the world does the reverse, typically giving the score of the home team first. That’s the difference between American football and soccer.
- In some sports, games have rounds or “innings” in which the teams play different roles— in an “inning”, one team is “in” (e.g. batting) while the other team is “out” (e.g. fielding). During an inning in these games the traditional practice is often to report the score of the “in” team first. During a set in tennis, for example, one player “serves” and the other player “receives service”. In this context the standard practice is to say the score of the server first.
With petanque, at least in the USA, after a game has finished the standard practice seems to be to report the score of the winning team first. The question that most interests me is how we talk about the score during the game, after the agreement of points at the end of each mène.
- (A) In the USA, perhaps the most common technique is to use the highest-score-first technique— “4-3” or “4-3, in favor of us (or you).”
- (B) Another approach is to copy tennis’s practice of saying the score of the server (or in this case, the serving team) first. In petanque the “serving” team (the team that throws out the jack for the next mène) is the team that won the last mène. So you first say the score of the team that won the last mène. If you know that the score is 3-4, and you know that it was your team that won the last mène, you know that your team’s score is 3.
- (C) There is another approach, also inspired by tennis. In tennis, before serving, the server calls out the score, saying his/her own score first. In petanque, after the agreement of points, the winning team verbally reports the score from its viewpoint (“3-4”), to which the opposing team responds by verbally reporting the score from its viewpoint (“4-3”). This produces a “call and response” exchange (an “affirm and confirm” exchange”?) which usefully confirms and finalizes the two teams’ agreement on the score.
I think that each of these techniques is probably used by some group, somewhere, in the USA or in France or elsewhere. What I don’t know, and would like to know, is:
- Is there a group that uses a different technique than the ones I’ve mentioned here?
- Is there one particular method that is more widely used than the others?
To start a mène (end, round) the winning team places the circle and then throws out the jack to a distance of 6 to 10 meters.
Article 7 says: “The distance that separates [the jack] from the interior edge of the throwing circle must be 6 meters minimum and 10 meters maximum for Juniors and Seniors.” In petanque, when measuring the distance between two objects, you always measure the shortest distance between the objects. So the rule says that the shortest distance between the inside edge of the circle and the front of the jack must be no less than 6 meters and no more than 10 meters.
The front edges of the two jacks in the picture (below) are at exactly 6 meters and 10 meters from the circle. Both jacks are valid. If the jack at 6m was a little closer to the circle, it would not be valid because the distance would be less than 6m. If the jack at 10m was a little farther from the circle, it would not be valid because the distance would be more than 10m.
It is important to be clear about the fact that the wording of the rule uses the concept of distance, not of area. The distance between the circle and the jack must be between 6 and 10 meters. Some players confuse this with the rule about a boule straddling the boundary line of a marked playing area. They imagine an area with boundaries at 6 and 10 meters from the circle, and think that the rule says that the jack must be at least partially inside the boundaries of that area in order to be valid.
Imagine a square on the lane going from 6 to 10 meters from the circle. When you throw the jack it is valid when even the smallest part of the jack is in the square, like a boule’s validity until it totally passes the dead-ball line.
According to this mental model the jacks straddling the “lines” in the above drawing are valid. In fact, however, there are no lines on the ground to be straddled. The jack at about 10 meters is valid because it is less than the maximum allowable distance (10m) from the circle, but the jack at about 6m is NOT valid because it is less than the minimum allowable distance (6m) from the circle.
Sometimes players express the same confusion by asking: “Does ‘between 6 and 10 meters’ mean between 6 and 10 meters as measured to the front of the jack or to its back?” Again: in petanque, when measuring the distance between two objects, you always measure the shortest distance between the objects. So the answer is: the FRONT of the jack.
Question: In an informal setting, two teams play a series of games against each other. After a game is finished, which team throws out the jack to start the next game?
Here’s a story from Gary Jones.
When I first started learning the game, I didn’t have enough playing experience to know the most common way of playing, so I tried to glean my knowledge from the written rules. Since the rules say that the team that won the toss or the last scoring round throws the first boule, that’s the way we played– even from game to game. So we always played “Winner first.”
As an American, I had EXACTLY the same experience when I was learning the game. This year, however, we had a visiting player from France, Daniel. Daniel told us that in France they play “Losers start the next game.” I figured that since it was a French game, the French way must be the right way. But I wanted to make sure that Daniel had given us an accurate account of French tradition. So I checked with Raymond Ager, a British player who now lives in the south of France. He confirmed what Daniel had said.
I would say, in an informal setting, it’s for the players to agree such things among themselves. There is no ‘official’ rule but I think the convention that everybody adopts is that the losers of the last game start the next — in England players say, “Mugs away!”.
Another player, Andy Walker, confirmed the “Mugs away!” expression.
So there it is… The losing team starts the next game. French players can draw on long-standing oral tradition to help them when the written rules aren’t helpful. American players aren’t so lucky, and I suspect that Gary’s story and mine might be common in America. So I thought I’d write this post to help other American players who have had the same experience.
After writing this post, I realized that I didn’t really know what “Mugs away!” means. A bit of internet research revealed that it is British slang (probably derived from the game of darts) and it means “Losers start!” It is what the winner of a game says to the loser, and it means basically “Let’s start (the next game). You play first.”
The word “mug” has some mildly derisive connotations.
The term ‘mug’ is simply an adoption of the common (UK) slang word ‘mug’, meaning a fool, a simpleton and especially a gullible ‘punter’ who is most likely to fall prey to a confidence trickster. (SOURCE)
It is a piece of mild one-upmanship, implying that since I (the speaker) just won, I can afford to be generous and give you (the loser, who fondly imagines he has a chance against the great me) the advantage of throwing first, although, of course, it won’t help you a bit. (SOURCE)