TOPICS: Where should unplayed boules be placed on the court? Is it ok for a player to hold boules that have not been played in a pocket?

Hello Everyone,

The daylight duration is lengthening. Isn’t that GREAT?!

Just one question was submitted from our gentle readers this month. Lolli had a question, which I paraphrase:
Can players keep their unthrown boules in their pockets? Another excellent question from Lolli.

So where can we keep our boules? The rules make no mention of where to keep boules yet-to-be-thrown.
So for this situation, we need to use common sense, etiquette, and in the end, simple arithmetic.

Ok, first the common sense part. To save the time and effort of wandering around, “Hey, where did I leave my boules?” and searching, it is good to keep your boules close at hand. You MAY keep them in your pockets, in your hands, under your hat, or up your a…..ah, sleeve. If you don’t want to stand around carrying that extra weight (especially in August heat) you may leave them on the ground until it is your turn to throw. If you do leave them on the ground (as I usually do), then for safety you should keep them in plain sight, in an area where they are unlikely to be tripped over. To keep them close at hand, you could leave your boules a meter or two beside or behind the throwing ring. That is in plain sight, but a bit less safe than say, putting them out-of-bounds near or behind the throwing ring. Again, you should keep them close enough so that you don’t have to waste time retrieving them. It IS NOT recommended to keep your unplayed boules out-of-bounds near the jack’s end of the terrain, as they could be mistaken for already-played dead boules.

Now the etiquette part. If you do keep your boules in your pockets, under your hat, or up your a……ah, sleeve, some opponents may accuse you of surreptitiously trying to hide them; you scheming, devious, criminal petanque-a-donker. If you care what other people think, that’s your issue to remedy. If you don’t care, then it is their problem that they cannot handle what is…

The simple arithmetic part. Every doubles or triples game uses 12 boules. Every player should always know the ‘boule count’. Repeat that as your mantra. Simple math: our team has this many boules yet to play. That many boules have already been thrown by both teams. 12 minus this many and minus that many = the difference the opponent has remaining to throw.

Now, what to do with already-thrown DEAD boules which have gone out-of-bounds? Can you pick them up in preparation for the next end? The short answer is “NO”.

Article 27, Removed Boules (first sentence):
“It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the completion of an end.”
Seems plain and clear enough. Article 27’s next two paragraphs deal with prematurely picking up “live” boules. Some readers speculate that the first sentence (above) also refers only to “live” boules. But it does not say “live boules”, it just says “boules”.

So why would it be forbidden to pick up boules which are already dead? The French writers know, but they have not shared it with me. I would assert that it goes back to two reasons: (A) the scheming, devious, criminal petanque-a-donkers and (B) simple math. It is more difficult to do (B) if (A) throws their boules and then picks up the dead ones before the end is over. I have even seen players pick up dead boules and rethrow them in the same end. The consequence of picking up the dead boules could be a simple warning, or tougher penalties, like disqualification of a past or future throw, or even exclusion of you from the game. (See Art.35, Penalties)

So my suggestion for this edition is to always count the boules, and only resurrect the dead ones after the reckoning.

Please keep your questions coming, and send them directly to me at


Gregory Conyers

(Edmonds Petanque Club Sports Director and NW Regional Umpire)

The preceding rules interpretations are offered by EPC member Greg Conyers, NW Regional Umpire. They represent Greg’s interpretation of current petanque rules. Other umpires’ opinions may differ.