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Pointing practice fun!

So far we have looked at landing areas, throwing the jack to correct lengths, placing of the boule in front of the jack in a D.

All the practice tips have been to help you get your boule exactly where you want it but in a real game the opposition tend to mess up your plans by putting boule in the way!

In this session we will create a head from hell. Chances are you will not come across anything this difficult in a game and if you do you may tend to shoot your way out of trouble. This session is not about tactical thoughts but about focusing on pointing into a difficult head. If you practise this type of shot you will gain in confidence and ability. It also adds competition to practice so you can play this game on your own.

You need to get hold of a spare set of boule for this session. Any boule will do even leisure boule will be OK. Place the jack at six metres from your throwing position, always draw or use a circle even when practising, then place three boule around the jack. One approximately 6 inches in front of the jack, one 5 inches to the side of the jack and one eight inches on the opposite side to the last boule but back behind the jack by about 3 inches. The photograph shows a typical set up. It does not have to be precise but the closer these boule are to the jack, the better player you will become. Hopefully when you take your place in the circle you will not be able to see the jack and wonder how you are going to point to the jack.

Well that is the task. To make a game of it, imagine you are in a real game playing the last three boule of the end and so far your opposition are holding three. The object is to take the points, three hopefully. Now you can see why you may, in a real game, shoot the front boule. Actually in a real game if you had three left and the opposition were holding three you would shoot the front boule hoping for a carreau or a jack movement. BUT No shooting is allowed as we are still on pointing practice. I will be harder on you than that as even a hard point is not allowed. Any opposition boule that travel 18 inches from the jack cause the end to be dead and so no score to you or the "opposition" The session is First to thirteen obviously! I know it is difficult and you will only pick up the odd end when you first start this exercise but soon you will begin to win ends and then slowly turn your pointing game on this system into success. After you have won a game, it may take a while, move the jack to seven metres and play as before, repeat the game up to ten metres in one metre stages. Good luck. The longer the length the more difficult it will become. Do not get disheartened it is a difficult task but your game will improve.

If you wish to go even further with this type of practice move the boule to other positions i.e. two in front and one behind etc. Also play those important six and a half metre etc. lengths that seem to get missed out in practice. To add an edge to the game if the opposition win you could move back to the last length you played at. A little like snakes and ladders.

Good Luck

Jumping  jacks.

The art of winning a game of Petanque is to always make the best of a bad position. The game is full of moments were the game can twist and turn. Good luck or bad luck can fall upon you at every moment.

One of the most common problems in a game is movement of the jack. When shooting a boule the jack is usually in close proximity. One of the reasons for shooting! This is a time when anything can happen. The shooting boule is coming into the head at speed causing boule, gravel or jack to be pushed out of the head. If the jack is hit it may not go out of play. It can move two or three meters from the head. Chances are it will move away from the circle leaving a lot of boule between the circle and the jack. If there are still boule to play they will be thrown with extreme caution and care. The crowded head is now right in the way of any boule played towards the jack. This really is make or break of a game. Crashing into the boule left two to three meters from the jack will not help your situation. The length is best walked out so it is clear in your mind. The landing spot for your point must also focused upon. A lob over the pack is possibly the most productive shot or spinning your boule in from the side. This is totally dependent on the terrain and of course the boule left for each team to play. This is a shot best practised away from a game situation. It may only happen once a competition but the longer you play on the day as you reach the semi’s and finals there tends to be more shooting and more jack movements.

Practice session.

If you do not have spare boule to use take three or four half house bricks and place them in a circle approximately one metre in diameter. This circle should be approx. 7 meter’s from the throwing circle. Place the jack two metres behind the circle of bricks and practice pointing to the jack. The bricks represent the old head after a jack movement. With practice you should be able to miss the bricks but point close to the jack. It is a shot you will only use a couple of times during the competition but one day this practice will reap rewards. Try different permutations to try to represent changing situations. Later in the tactics sessions we can look at knocking in the boule from the old head to score more points. This will mean you will need to know who’s boule are whose. A shot may lead to a big head but remember the boule you are shooting may have to pass the jack. Very embarrassing if you put the oppositions boule onto the jack by shooting it.

Jumping jacks part 2

When opposition teams play their 5th boule and you still have five in hand, things can get a little desperate for the opposition. The 5th boule can do lots of things and maybe the opposition are going to go for a dead jack. This can be a controlled shot or a very hard point/shot/wang ( you get the idea and this is not meant to insult anyone). Desperate times call for desperate deeds. The boule the opposition will have in hand could be gold dust if the jack moves on the fifth boule they throw. If the jack goes dead it will be proudly held aloft like a sacrifice to the gods. If the jack jumps towards the back of the piste and stops 10cm from the dead boule line this sixth boule of the opposition may still win the end. 1 against five is not good odds but it can happen. So how do you solve the problem? The jack has jumped to the back of the piste and they are holding with a boule they had missed your boule with earlier in the end approx. 5 feet from the jack. This boule is the closest and makes you play your 2nd boule of the end. Distance is a factor as the jack could be over 10 metres from the circle. The task for your team is to make the opposition play their last boule. I know that is basic stuff but at this point in the end you just need to be on! Look at the scoring zone and make sure your boule is within that five foot circle. I know you have all noticed the five foot circle has a flat end across the back of it where the dead boule line is. Well done! So just beat the closest boule and they will have to play the last boule and then you can have some fun and maybe score a few points. There is a debate that to put a boule right on the jack will make them play the last boule. Well of course that is correct. What if the pointer of your team is not able to reach the distance to the jack but can beat the closest boule. Who plays next? Another member of your team? You knew the dilemma was coming. Petanque is all about thinking. I have an opinion that the next boule you play needs to be on so the opposition will be out of boule when you next visit the circle with your four boule left to play. But, you ask, what if you make them play the last boule and it is right on the jack because all you focused on was getting on. It could be the opposition are either very brave or very foolhardy as the jack is only 10cm from the dead boule line. A very risky shot to get near the jack. If it moves the jack 13cm with a must reach point, the score will be four to you without playing another boule. Good times! If they do manage to get a very close boule that needs shooting the jack could die as the impact on the boule shocks it over the line. A miss may kill the jack accidently on purpose or you could play a hard point on to the jack / boule in a percentage shot kind of way to kill either for points. I said you could have fun with your last four boule but the main focus on this tactic is to make the opposition play that last boule with your 2nd boule of the end.



Pointing cont…

So let’s look at those fast dry pitches. Fast pitches.

In Northern European countries we work hard to create a petanque piste. Southern France enjoys dry hot weather. Pathways and dusty squares, under trees and dry soil give the chance to play petanque on a variety of natural surfaces. In our wetter area we need to create an all weather piste and that means work, lots of it. Digging down 12 inches and filling the ground with bricks, rubble and infill to create a drainage system to stop the piste flooding is tough. The surface needs to be compact, yet let the water through so fine gravel is normally the answer. After a few years these pistes, if constructed correctly become hard and fast terrains. See our piste installation sheet on  Constant play, weather and the footfall of players flattens the surface and the dreaded two words start to be used. Marble’s and scooters.


In this session we are going to look at marbling and how to keep away from it if need be. Dropping the boule just in front of your feet and watching it roll slowly to the jack and then three feet past it can be very frustrating. You try, but cannot throw it softer and cannot land the boule closer to you. It all seems impossible and to add insult to injury when at last you get one close the opposition shooter scoots it out!!! Frustration.


The main problem is players are trying to solve the problem in the wrong direction. If the piste is fast then back spin is required. By dropping the boule at your feet you are taking the very solution away from the thrown boule. The roll is almost uncontrollable on its journey over all that ground with every stone and slope taking the boule away from it’s course. Break the habit and try to lift the boule. No need to go really high. Throw with a semi lob and move the landing spot just a little back towards you. Let the boule and the backspin do its work on landing. At this point the boule should then have a more controlled roll and will be passing over a shorter length of ground to the jack. Try it and you will be surprised at the results. Try to ignore side kicks as this will happen on all pistes so do not let it turn to the marble throw. Focus on length and keep the boule in a nice loop on its initial journey from the hand. It will take some practice but give it a go next time you see a fast hard piste. It also works on downward slopes.

The scoring area The jack.

The jack tends to be the focus of play in petanque. It is the target. The main thing most players are aiming at. Let us take another view at this little piece of wood 30mm diameter give or take a mm. Sometimes it is brightly painted, sometimes it is plain wood for the purists and sometimes it is a mixture of both due to the wear and tear of the piste.

The purpose of the jack is to give the petanque player something to aim at and we have looked at where best to place the boule in relation to the jack. In front, blocking the right hand pointer line, blocking the left hand pointers line, just behind, just to the side or balancing on top. OK I made that last one up but you get the idea. The opening gambits of an end of petanque can be varied but let us take a step away from the head. Lets look at the jack another way. The jack is actually marking the centre of the scoring circle. In fact the jack is not the target at all! We are trying to position our boule to compromise the area inside the scoring area. This area can grow and shrink as different boule are played into it. The scoring area should be studied at all times to make sure you are A. Making it as small as possible for the opposition B. Defending the area to make sure it stays as large as possible for your team and C. when it comes to playing your final boule or boule into it every single boule counts.


If the jack moves, the scoring area moves with it, of course it does! This means you can move the scoring area to your advantage or disadvantage. If the jack moves close to a dead boule line then the scoring area is reduced and will have a flat line on one side of the zone. This is particularly important if you are playing a boule to a moved jack. Do not be jack obsessed and point to the jack. Look at the scoring area available to you and use it. It depends on whether the opposition have boule left a whole world can open up. Do not worry if the boule looks a long way away from the jack. The key is if it is scoring or not. A boule 6 inches away but over a dead boule line is no use to anyone if the scoring area is 6 feet in diameter.  A close boule is vanity a scoring boule is sanity.

Pointing trial 1.jpg

Pointing Trial 1.

Pointing. When is the jack not the target?

The game of petanque revolves around who is closest to the jack, so it is a bold step to question, “Is the jack the target all the time?”

We will try to look at times when the jack is not the target. Most of these are covered elsewhere in the tips but we thought we would get all the occasions together that the jack is not the target hoping you will be amazed how many times this is the case.

  1. The most obvious time the jack is not the target is when the jack is already surrounded by your boule. During the end in a desperate attempt to limit the oppositions points against a superb point by them. You have failed to remove the boule with a shot or two and then struggled to out point the boule. You are in a bad position with one boule left and the opposition still holding five boule. In this situation most teams would look to cover the ground behind the jack in case the opposition try to spring the jack out of its place and pile on the points in an undefended area. Therefore the jack is not the target, that large area of piste behind the jack is! Tricky to play this shot but the truth is, if you adopt the landing spot method you can pick a way round, or through, or over the jack position to get your boule to the required area. Depending on the position of the jack and other boule you will be looking to get a boule in a 50cm circle area highlighted by your teammates.  It is covering the ground so needs to be accurate but not precise and watch out for the dead boule line! You can practice this shot on the practice piste.

  2. The team you are playing are shooting everything in sight and you are down on boule. You have a choice if you are pointing. Point to the jack or point a defensive boule in front or near the oppositions boule. This is covered in tactics in another section but you still need to be able to make the oppositions boule your target if that is the plan you have chosen. This can save a big score if played at the right time. Sometimes it has given me the point as the opposition have shot and cannoned my boule into theirs to give me a point. I did not laugh, just a snigger.

  3. The knock up shot. You are pointing but the jack is not the target initially. You are looking to play through a boule in front of the jack. The jack is not the target.

  4. Pointing on to a boule. Very similar to item B but is an attacking defensive shot. The opposition have pointed a boule just wide of the jack but more importantly just passed the jack. The target is to rest on the opposition boule to be in an on position. Jack is relevant but not the target. Shown clearly in Fig 6.

  5. You are playing against a very good shooter and a moderate pointer. You do not want to point close to the jack as the shooter will carreau the boule in a great position. Just play a tricky point that will lure the pointer to try to out point the boule. Your boule has to be a lure point. Not close enough to get the shooter moving to the circle but looks like it can be out pointed easily. So you are pointing to an area near the jack. Jack is relevant but not the target.

  6. Your first point has held all the oppositions boule and your shooter has successfully shot the jack. It has not died but landed and stopped about 2cm from the dead boule line at the back of the piste. You have four boule to score and the oppositions closest boule is 3 metres away. In this situation the jack is certainly not the target. Getting close to the jack is foolhardy, taking it over the dead boule line with your last boule is idiotic!


I hope this has proved interesting and something to think about. If you have any occasions the jack is not the target we would be pleased to add them over the next few days. Not all plays are clear cut and everyone has an opinion but, if you stop thinking and stop talking to your team, prepare to start losing!



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