Learn about Pétanque

Pétanque is played with hollow steel balls known as boules, and a small wooden target ball or jack. The game is usually played on a gravel-topped terrain at least 12m long, but this need not to be a purpose-built area. Pétanque can be played informally on many other types of surfaces, such as a sandy beach.

Games can be played as either:

  • Singles: Two individual players, each with 3 boules
  • or Doubles: Two teams of two players, with 3 boules per player
  • or Triples: Two teams of three players, with 2 boules per player

Boules are supplied in sets of three, all with identical markings called striationsThese help to identify each player’s boules during a game.

How to play a game


The two teams toss a coin to decide who starts first.


A player from the starting team draws a circle on the ground and then, standing with both feet in the circle, throws the target jack out to a distance of 6 to 10 meters.


The starting team’s player then throws their first boule, trying to get it close to the jack.


Next, a player from the second team stands in the circle and tries to get their boule closer to the jack than the opposing team. They can do this simply throwing their boule, so it ends up closer; or by knocking into the opposing team’s boule and moving it away.


If that team succeeds in getting their boule closer than all its opponent’s boules, then the opposing team now has to attempt to throw a boule closer.


The team which does not have the closest boule to the jack after each throw, keeps throwing their boules until either they get closest, or they run out of boules to throw, at which point it is the other team’s turn to play.


When all boules from both teams have been thrown, that is the conclusion of an ‘end’. Points are awarded for each boule that is closer to the jack than the other team’s closest boule, and these points are added to the running score. That is, if team A has two of its boules closer to the jack than opposing team’s closest boule, then team A gets two points added to their score and is said to have ‘won the end’.


The team who won the previous end, starts the next one by drawing a circle around the current position of the jack and using that as the starting position.


Play continues in this way until one team reaches 13 points, at which point they have won the game. There is no limit on the number of ends that can be played in a game.

Tips and terminology

Improve your game

Although it is possible to play pétanque at a club level with little or no instruction, learning some proper techniques can improve your game significantly. Our coaches will be happy to guide you in person and have also produced some helpful tips to help you.

Our training video is a great place to start – it discusses good practice in the main disciplines of pétanque, which are demonstrated by some of our younger players who have had the benefit of PE coaching.

  • Boules are usually thrown underarm with the palm facing down and lobbed through the air rather than rolled along the ground. This technique is not specifically required by the rules, but it allows the use of backspin and gives better control of the boule.
  • A prefabricated plastic “ring” can be used to stand in as an alternative to drawing a circle on the ground
  • To “point” is to throw a boule so that it stops close to the jack
  • To “shoot” is to hit an opponent’s boule out of the way, or move it further from the jack
  • There are no rules restricting which members of a team can point or shoot, but often players specialise in one or other of these skills, and so refer to themselves as a “pointer” or a “shooter
  • Cochonnet (or “coche”) is an informal name for the Jack, from the French “little pig”.
  • To be “Fannied” is to lose a game 13:0

Further information on improving your game is available on the PE website –  Improve your game – (petanque-england.uk).


There are two techniques to choose from




FIPJP Official Rules of Pétanque

Here you’ll find the rules for PE national competitions as well as the official rules of the sport. Rules – (petanque-england.uk) 

If there are any discrepancies, the online version takes precedence over the printed booklet