A boule thrown out of turn

Team A has the point. Team B throws boule B1. B1 gains the point but the players don’t realize that. Mistakenly believing that team A still has the point, team B throws boule B2.

The players then walk to the head and measure all of the boules. They discover that B1 had actually gained the point. That means that after B1 was thrown, team A, not team B, should have thrown the next boule. Boule B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?


OPINION #1: B2 was thrown contrary to the rules

Article 15 says that “it is the team that does not hold the point that plays.” So it seems obvious that a boule played out-of-turn should be considered a boule thrown contrary to the rules. That means that we should apply Article 24.

Any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if its original position was marked. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and to declare that it is valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is still alive and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

In our example, nothing was marked, so everything is left in place and the offended team (team A) has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule (B2) on the terrain. Then the team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

OPINION #2: B2 was NOT thrown contrary to the rules

In 2008, the national umpires for Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) issued a set of rules interpretations that held that a boule thrown out of turn is NOT a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”.

Even if the boule was not holding, by agreeing that it was, the opponents in effect declared it to be valid under Rule 24. At the end of the mène, the boules can be measured, but not to determine whether the team had played out of turn, only to determine the current holding positions for points purposes.

Following this lead, in 2012 John Degueldre, Director of Umpiring for Petanque New Zealand, issued the following ruling.

Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [i.e. as "boules thrown contrary to the rules"] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the ‘boule advantage’. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place. But it is still the player or team not holding the point that must play the next boule.

The practical effect of this interpretation is that, after a boule is thrown out-of-turn, everything is left where it is, and the game just carries on. The team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

OPINION #3: It depends on the circumstances

Consider these two cases.

  1. The two teams walk to the head and visually inspect the situation. Or perhaps they just stand by the circle and visually inspect the situation from a distance. Team B says, “Looks to me like you’ve got the point.” Team A says, “Yeah, I think so too.” They don’t measure. Team B throws the next boule. (PNZ calls such situations lazy petanque.)
  2. After throwing boule B1, the player in the circle makes a snap judgment that he has failed to gain the point. Without asking team A for their opinion, and before team A has time to inspect the head or even shout “Wait a minute,” he throws boule B2.

A player should not throw a boule without reaching an agreement with the other team that it is his team’s turn to throw. In the first case team B got team A’s agreement that team B should throw: both teams made an honest mistake and the game should just carry on. In the second case team B failed to get team A’s agreement on the point (i.e. failed to perform due diligence) and for that reason really did throw B2 contrary to rules.

The bottom line

If none of the locations of boules was marked (as is virtually always the case) then everything except the offending boule is left where it is. The thrown boule is also left where it is unless we consider it to have been thrown contrary to the rules— in that case the offended team has the option (under Article 24) of declaring the offending boule to be dead.

If a “boule thrown out of turn” happens in an umpired tournament, the umpire would probably apply Article 24. (But players in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions are experienced enough not to let this kind of situation ever arise.) For friendly games, the PNZ guidelines seem very sensible— just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game. In my own petanque group, if the out-of-turn boule didn’t move anything else on the ground, we return the boule to its owner and carry on as if it had never been thrown.

“Boules thrown out of turn” situations can be genuinely problematic— boule B2 (thrown out of turn) may alter the game dramatically (and unfairly) in favor of team B. Our only consolation is that such situations usually happen in friendly games among beginning players. In a friendly game, the best response is simply to be astonished and amused by team B’s luck, and then carry on with the game.

The notion of “a boule thrown out of turn” is sometimes invoked in cases of forgotten boules. But I think that is a mistake.


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