Rules of Petanque


  1. Start of the Game.

Start of play and rules regarding the circle.  The players must draw lots (toss a coin) to decide which team will choose the terrain, if it has not been allocated by the organisers, and to be the first to throw the jack.  If the lane has been designated by the organisers, the jack must be thrown on this lane. The teams concerned must not go to a different lane without the umpire’s permission.  Any member of the team winning the draw chooses the starting point and places or traces a circle on the ground of a size that the feet of each player can fit entirely inside it. However, a drawn circle may not measure less than 35 cm or more than 50 cm in diameter.  The interior of the circle can be completely cleared of grit/pebbles etc. during the end but must be put back in good order when the end is over.

Placing the circle.  At the first end the circle can be placed anywhere on the piste so long as a valid throw can be made i.e. a minimum 6m to a maximum of 10 m. The circle’s location must be marked. The circle must be placed inside edge down. Your feet must not touch the circle nor may they lift completely off the ground before your boule lands. No part of the body may touch the ground outside the circle.

Initial throw of the Jack.  A valid throw is between 6m and 10m from the inside edge of the circle. The jack must be a minimum 0.5m from the end dead boule line, some part remaining inside the outer edge of the side lines. It must be 1.5m from any other games’ circle or jack and 0.5m from any obstacle. If the throw is invalid the opposing team places the jack where they want subject to the above rules They have the option to move the circle back up to a max 10.5m from the end dead boule line. If any part of a jack or boule is inside the line then it’s in.

Challenging validity of the throw.  If the jack might have been thrown invalidly that team can still choose to play their first boule without interruption from the opposition. Only after this are the opposition allowed to measure whether the jack was valid. If it’s agreed invalid, the opposition place the jack validly. The first team then plays its first boule again.

  1. Ongoing Play.

At the start of each end.  The circle must be placed over the jack after the previous end. If necessary the circle must be moved to be 1.5m from any nearby circle or jack in use or 1m from any obstacle. The circle may never be moved forwards. However the first player of a new end may move the circle back in line with the previous end’s play to provide up to 10.5m to the dead boule line. They don’t have to do this, it’s their choice.

Where not to stand.  The team waiting its turn to play should stand off the piste at one or other end and well behind the player whose turn it is. They should be still and quiet so as not to distract.

One minute to play.  In timed games you have only 1 minute to play your boule after all boules and the jack have stopped moving and any measuring has been done.

Filling a hole.  A team can fill one dip made by a previous boule before throwing the jack and each boule. You can’t smooth the piste you can only return the dip to what it would have been before that boule landed there.

The jack goes out of play so it’s dead. 

– If only one side has boules left they earn as many points as boules in hand, aka “shooting the jack”.

– Otherwise the end is dead. The team who won the previous end plays again from a new end.

– Unusual situation: If the jack is hit and bounces back to within 3m of the circle it is dead.

Two boules are equidistant from the jack.

– If both teams have boules in hand the last team plays again because they didn’t actually win that point.

– If only one team has boules in hand it plays them all.

– If no team has boules it’s a dead end. The team who won the previous end plays again from a new end.

– If boules beyond those initially holding the point are equidistant from the jack neither gain a point.

  1. At the End of each End.

When does an end finish?  An end finishes when all boules and the jack have stopped moving. The next end starts the moment the previous end finished, there is no time gap. Two examples will help:

– The last boule has been thrown and all boules have stopped moving. That end is over, therefore the next end has started. A moment later the bell goes. So you finish this new end and play one more end (+ a tie breaker if a draw).

– The last boule has been thrown but hits another boule which is still moving when the bell goes. So that end hasn’t finished. Finish that end and play one more end (+ a tie breaker if a draw).

Who measures and awards the points?  Contrary to many peoples’ belief, measuring is not done by the losing team but by the team who last played that end. One point is scored for every one of the winner’s boules that are closer to the jack than their opponent’s nearest boule. The other team must stand well clear and not intervene while measuring is taking place. However at least one player should be watching to make sure no boule or jack were moved. This team may then check the measuring, getting an umpire if necessary.

  1. Supplementary rules.

Playing with someone else’s boule.  Some boules look very similar. If you accidentally play with someone else’s boule the throw is valid but the boule should be replaced with your boule at the first opportunity, possibly after measuring has been done. The rules don’t say but it may be polite to offer your opponents to do it so they can take care to not disadvantage themselves.

Picking up the circle before all boules are played.  The circle is replaced but only the opponents can play their remaining boules.

Picking up your boule before the end is scored.  The boules you picked up are dead. If your partners still have boules in hand they are not allowed to play them.

Smoking, Drinking and Mobiles.  Smoking, drinking alcohol and using mobiles during a game are not permitted.


For The Enthusiast The Full Set Of Rules