What is the rule?

Like many sports the rules can often be confusing and appear contradictory at first sight.  It also doesn’t help when you are told different interpretations by other members, who should know.

This section of the web site has been set up to assist both new and established players to understand the rules a bit better.

The intention is to publish a rule or incident or topic from time-to-time (hopefully weekly), and elicit a discussion around the content of that topic.

Anyone is welcome to comment, but please be polite, respectful, understanding and patient. We have many members of varying ages and levels of experience. It is hoped this will encourage everyone to learn more about how the sport is played and improve our understanding.

This is not intended to replace any other online resources relating to the Rules of the sport, more to work in tandem with them.

This Blog is intended to be friendly and fun, but it will be moderated and any comments which the EC feel are inappropriate may be removed. Abusive, insulting or foul language will not be tolerated.

If anyone has any suggestions or questions relating to related topics they wish to discuss, please email them using the form below.

A Few Rules to Remember

When is an end finished (or started)?

An end is considered over when the last boule is played – i.e. the last boule has been thrown, has landed and stopped moving.
This same definition applies to all boules (and the jack) thrown in the game in relation to the timing of the one-minute “clock” rule, i.e. the jack is thrown or placed (or a boule is thrown) and as soon as it stops moving the one-minute “clock” starts and the first (or next) boule must be thrown within that time. If a measure is required, the one-minute “clock” starts from the completion of the measure.
An end is deemed to have started when the jack has been thrown – NOTE that the thrown-jack does not have to be valid for the end to have started.

Although not specified in the official Rules, in a timed-game the moment the last boule has been played (i.e. stopped moving) is also considered the start of the next-end.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Arts.21 & 33, which state:

Article 21, Time allowed to play
Once the jack is thrown each player has the maximum duration of one minute to play his or her boule. This short period starts from the moment when the previous boule or jack stops or, if it is necessary to measure a point, from the moment the latter has been effected. The same requirements apply to the throwing of the jack.

Article 33, Late arrival of players
…. An end is considered as having started as soon as the jack has been thrown regardless of its validity. Special arrangements can be made for time limited games.

Filling and smoothing the playing area.

A player may fill one hole that has previously been created by a boule.

A player may not smooth the surface, stamp down or compact/press the surface to create a landing spot.

A player may not remove obstacles including by stamping/pressing them into the ground or by sweeping them out of the way.

Also players may not tamp down, press or sweep the ground in front of a boule they are about to shoot. However, a hole made by a boule e.g. a missed short shot may be filled.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.10, which states:

Article 10, Displacement of Obstacles
It is strictly forbidden for players to press down, displace or crush any obstacle whatever on the playing area. However, the player about to throw the jack is authorised to test the landing point with one of his or her boules by tapping the ground no more than three times. Furthermore, the player who is about to play, or one of his partners, may fill in a hole which would have been made by one boule played previously.

For not complying with this rule, especially in the case of sweeping in front of a boule to be shot, the players incur the penalties outlined in article 35.


Once a game has started players are not allowed to have any practise throws on or off the playing area.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.10, which states:

Article 18, Throwing of the boules and boules going outside the terrain
Absolutely no-one may, as a test, throw his/her boule during the game. Players who do not observe this rule could be penalised as set out in the chapter “Discipline”, Article 35.

During an end, boules going outside the marked terrain are valid except as in the application of Article 19.


When throwing the boule or jack your feet must be within the confines of the circle and not touching it.

During the throw your feet must remain on the ground until the boule hits the floor. Make sure you don’t lift a foot when throwing or step out of the circle before the boule has landed.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.6, which states:

Article 6, Start of play and rules regarding the circle
…. In all cases the circles must be marked before the jack is thrown.
…. The players’ feet must be entirely on the inside of the circle and not encroach on its perimeter and they must not leave it or be lifted completely off the ground until the thrown boule has touched the ground.
No part of the body may touch the ground outside the circle.
Any player not respecting this rule shall incur the penalties as provided in Article 35.
As an exception, those disabled in the lower limbs are permitted to place only one foot inside the circle. For players throwing from a wheelchair, at least one wheel (that on the side of the throwing arm) must rest inside the circle.


A really hard one on cramped pistes.
Really you should be behind and to the side (by 2m) of the person throwing (directly behind an opposing player is not allowed) or you should be beyond the jack and again to the side – by 2 metres.
In reality this is hard to do sometimes – so make sure you are out of the eye line of the person throwing and in particular you should not be between the circle and the jack when the opposition are throwing.

You can choose where to stand when your own team are throwing.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.17, which states:

Article 17, Behaviour of players and spectators during a game
During the regulation time allowed for a player to throw a boule the spectators and players must observe total silence.
The opponents must not walk, nor gesticulate nor do anything that could disturb the player about to play. Only his or her team-mate/s may remain between the throwing circle and the jack.
The opponents must remain beyond the jack or behind the player and, in both cases, to the side with regard to the direction of play and at a distance of at least 2 metres the one from the other.
The players who do not observe these regulations could be excluded from the competition if, after a warning from the Umpire,they persist in their conduct.


When a measure is needed during play it is for the team who just threw the boule to measure and declare the result. You can check afterwards by measuring yourself.

If the opposition decide to measure you should let them do so without crowding round / looking over shoulders etc. unless they ask you.

Once they have declared the result you can then accept it or ask to check it yourself. When an umpire is measuring you should not be close to him/her (rules say 2m but in reality just make sure you are not crowding the umpire)

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.26, which states:

Article 26, Measuring of points
The measuring of a point is the responsibility of the player who last played or by one of his or her team-mates. The opponents alwayshave the right to measure after one of these players.
Measuring must be done with appropriate instruments, which each team must possess.
Notably, it is forbidden to effect measurements with the feet. The players who do not observe this rule will incur the penalties outlined in Article 35.
Whatever positions the boules to be measured may hold, and at whatever stage the end may be, the Umpire can be consulted and his or her decision is final. During the time that the umpire is measuring the players must be at least 2 metres away.
By decision of the organising committee, especially in case of televised games, it may be decided that only the umpire is empowered to measure.


You MUST mark the circle before you throw the jack. The jack and every boule should also be marked. Agree with the other team if you will both mark boules or if one person will do it all. Remember if a boule or jack is not marked and gets displaced it cannot be put back to its original position.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.6, which states:

Article 6, Start of play and rules regarding the circle
…. In all cases the circles must be marked before the jack is thrown.

In addition, there are numerous references through the Rules which refer to marking boules and jacks – which permits either to be re-located in the event of it being moved or disturbed illegally.

[Thanks to Paul Mayfield for providing the above]

Standard Non-timed Games.

When playing in Home Nations, Inter-regionals and the Celtic Challenge the games are not timed games, therefore the standard rules apply.

Confusion often arises when teams are used to playing local league rules and timed games.

Rules of the Standard Game To Remember

In standard rules the lines between lanes are guidelines only. This means that they are not dead ball lines.

Firstly, this means that when you throw the jack it can be placed right up to either guidelines of the lane you are playing in.

Confusion arises because in timed or local games, where the lines are dead ball lines, the jack has to be 50cm away from the edge. This is not the case in a standard game.

Secondly, it means that if a boule that crosses the guideline (or a jack that gets knocked over) it is still ‘live’. The boule and jack are only dead if they cross the next guideline over (on the far side of the adjacent lanes).

You may be playing on an end lane. In that case one line will be a dead ball line, and the jack has to be 1m (or sometimes 50cm) away from it, and one line will be a guideline, and the jack can be placed right up to the line.


In standard non-timed games your lane will be part of the live playing area for the players next to you. If a jack comes onto your piste, work with the players in the other game and decide who should continue finish their end and who should wait.

The above are covered under F.I.P.J.P. Rules, Art.5, which states:

Article 5, Area of play and terrain rules
Pétanque is played on any surface. However, by the decision of the Organising Committee or the Umpire, the teams may be asked to play on a marked and defined terrain. In this case, the terrain for National Championships and International Competitions, must have the following minimum dimensions: 15m long x 4m wide.

For other competitions, the Federations may permit variations relative to these minimum dimensions, subject to them not being below 12m x 3m.
A playing area comprises of an indeterminate number of lanes defined by strings, the size of which must not interfere with the course of play. These strings marking separate lanes are not dead boule lines except for those marking the end of the lane and the exterior of the terrain.
When the lanes are placed end to end, the end lines connecting the lanes are dead ball lines.
When the terrains of play are enclosed by barriers, these must be a minimum distance of 1 metre from the exterior line of the playing area.
Games are played to 13 points, with the possibility of leagues and qualifying heats being played to 11 points.
Some competitions can be organised within time limits. These must always be played within marked lanes and all the lines marking these lanes are dead boules lines.
[Thanks to Paul Mayfield for providing the above]


  1. The rule on displacement is an interesting rule which seems open to varying interpretations.

    In particular I have seen players )who are about to try to shoot an opponents boule) walk up to that boule and place their foot immediately in front of it. I assume this is done to create a landing area or a more visible target.

    Since nobody can place a foot on a surface without exerting pressure, this surely amounts to displacement. But I’ve seen many people do it and when I’ve asked about it I’ve been told either that it’s perfectly legal or that ‘everybody does it’. So how is the rule interpreted in this case.

    1. Hi Chris, It is illegal to prepare the landing surface directly in front of a target boule, which is to be shot, unless there is a depression directly in front of the target boule made from a previous throw. If an umpire was present they may get a warning, but it is a yellow card offence.
      Tony Smith

  2. Hi Paul
    Can you clarify moving the circle back
    If you place the circle over the cosh as normal and cannot get a distance of 10mtrs
    1. Do you have to move the circle or not
    in other words if you can get 6mtrs can you leave it where it is if you want to

    2. How far can you move the circle back if need be (is it as far as you want or only to a distance so that you are able to get a maximum of 10mtrs)

    1. Hi Kon.
      Short answer is no – you don’t have to move the circle back. If you have 7m from the circle to the dead-ball line, then you can throw a 6m jack if you want to.
      However, if you do want to throw a 10m jack, you can move the circle back a sufficient distance to allow for this – e.g. in the case above, you would take the circle back another 4m to give you 10m plus 1m from the dead-ball line.
      Note that, even if you do bring the circle back to allow a 10m jack to be thrown, you could still throw a 6m jack.
      Note also that, in the first case above where you have 7m to throw the jack, if you fail to throw a legal jack, your opponent may bring the circle back to allow them to place a 10m jack.
      You can only take the circle back a sufficient distance to allow a 10m jack to be thrown (a very good reason to know how long the piste is).

  3. Hi Paul
    If yo decide to take a point and have boules in hand do you have to play them

    1. Hi Kon.
      No – there is no rule that says you must play any boules in-hand having elected to take the point.
      In the last year-or-so, there seems to be a rumour that you must throw all boules, but there is nothing in the Rules that says this.

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