Games for three players

We’ve seen many suggestions for three-player petanque games, but virtually all of them are too complex and confusing to be fun. There is only one three-player version of petanque that we recommend.  And it actually is a lot of fun.

Two Jacks is similar to regular petanque, but it is played with two jacks.

When a player throws the jack, he takes TWO jacks in hand and throws them both, simultaneously, with the same throw. Use jacks of different colors— that makes it easier to talk about the situation on the ground.

After the jacks are thrown, it is as if the players are playing two games simultaneously. Each boule is capable of scoring against BOTH jacks. So there is a certain amount of strategy involved in choosing which jack to play against.

  • At the end of each round, during “the agreement of points”, one jack and all of the boules are examined, and one of the players is awarded points against that jack in the normal way.
  • Then the other jack and all of the boules are examined, and one of the players is awarded points against that jack in the normal way.

It is possible for one player to score points against one of the jacks while another player scores against the other jack. It is also possible for a single player to score twice, once against each jack.

Suppose the photo (below) was taken at the end of the round.  The player with gold boules scores two points against the yellow jack on the right. The player with the silver boule scores one point against the green jack on the left. The player with the black-striped boules scores nothing.


The order of play is also adapted to three players.

  • For the first round in the game, toss a coin (or use some other random procedure) to determine which players play first, second, and third.
  • For subsequent rounds, the player with the HIGHEST SCORE (not the winner of the last round) throws first; the player with the second-highest score throws second; the player with the lowest score throws third. In case of a tie, the player that scored more points in the last round plays first. If there is still a tie, the player who was closest to one of the jacks plays first. After that, flip a coin or make up your own rules.

During a round (mène, end), after the three opening boules have been thrown—

  • Each player figures his/her best distance— the shortest distance of their best boule from EITHER jack.
  • The player that throws next is the one whose best distance is longest.  Suppose that the photo (above) was taken while the players still had unplayed boules.  The player with the gold boules would throw next. Even though his boules are closest to the yellow jack, the other players are closer to the green jack than he is to the yellow jack, so he throws next.

The game is over when the score of one (or more) of the players is 21 (or more).  (Feel free to play to whatever winning score you like.)  Then players are assigned first, second, and third place based on their scores.

Two Jacks is a pointer’s game. The way to score points is to point well. Shooting is usually a bad strategy except when your goal is to keep one particular player (of the two opposing players) from scoring points.

In Two Jacks, each player keeps his own score, on his own scorekeeper if he has one. This player has a score of 20.