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?


It’s a boule 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 23.

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 opposing team (team A) has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule on the terrain. Then the game on the ground is evaluated, and the team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

It’s NOT a boule thrown “contrary to the rules”

But… But… Wait a minute. Not everyone would agree that a boule played out-of-turn is a boule 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”, and Article 23 should not be applied.

Even if the boule was not holding, by agreeing that it was, the opponents in effect declared it to be valid under Rule 23. 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 game on the ground is evaluated, and the team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

It’s a little more complicated than that…

Consider these two cases.

  1. The two teams walk to the head and visually inspect the situation. 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 goes back to the circle and throws.
  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 whether or not they agree, and before team A has time to inspect the head or even shout “Wait a minute,” he throws boule B2.

It seems to me that a player should not throw a boule without getting an “agreement on the point” roughly similar to the “agreement of points” that takes place at the end of a mene.

  1. In the first case team B got team A’s agreement that he should throw. Both teams made an honest mistake and the game should just carry on.
  2. In the second case team B failed to do due diligence, failed to get team A’s “agreement on the point”. And for that reason, team B really did throw B2 contrary to rules.

The second case is actually very similar to what the PNZ called lazy petanque. But PNZ saw that such situations were mostly beginners mistakes, and chose to treat them as such.

The bottom line

If none of the locations of boules were marked (as is almost always the case) then there is actually very little difference between these two interpretations.

  • Under both of them, everything except the offending boule is left where it is.
  • The only difference is whether or not the opposing team has the option (under Article 23) of declaring the offending boule to be dead.

If a “boule thrown out of turn” situation was to happen in an umpired FIPJP-sanctioned tournament, the umpire would probably apply Article 23. But you’ll probably never see it happen. Players in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions are experienced enough not to let this kind of situation ever arise.

During friendly play, you probably want to follow the guidelines provided by Petanque New Zealand. Just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game. In my own petanque group we go even farther. If the out-of-turn boule didn’t move anything on the ground, then it is possible to return the boule to its owner and carry on as if nothing ever happened. And that is what we do.

“Boules thrown out of turn” situations really disturb rules nerds (like me). We dislike the possibility that boule B2, thrown out of turn and contrary to the rules, could create major havoc on the terrain and alter the game dramatically in favor of team B. And after all that, most boules (and the jack, which might also have been moved) must be left exactly where they are.

Our only consolation is that such situations happen only in friendly games among beginning players. In such games the best response is to be astonished and amused by team B’s luck, and then happily 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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