The game can be played individually or in teams. In competitions there are three different configurations:
The balls are made of metal and weigh between 650g and 800g, with a diameter of between 705mm and 800mm. The jack is made of wood and has a diameter of between 25mm and 35mm.
- three players per team (with two balls per player)
- two players per team (with three balls per player)
- one player per team (with three balls per player)
The playing area should be at least 12 metres long, by about 3 metres wide.
A player from the team that wins the toss starts the game by drawing a circle on the playing field (35 to 50cm in diameter). Both feet must be inside this circle when playing. The player then throws the jack to a distance of between 6 and 10 metres from the starting circle. The jack must be visible and at least 1 metre from any obstacle or boundary, otherwise it must be thrown again.
The same player then plays the first ball, trying to place it as close to the jack as possible. Then the opposing team plays their first ball. The team whose ball is closer to the jack is said to be holding the point. The team not holding the point continues playing until they either take over the point or run out of balls.
When one team runs out of balls the other team plays their remaining balls.
A player may choose to place a ball (get it as near as possible to the jack) or fire it (attempt to displace another ball).
A point is scored for each ball that is nearer to the jack than the opposing team's nearest ball.
The team that wins a turn starts the next turn and a new circle is drawn where the jack was in the previous round.
One set is usually to 13 points.
The international Petanque federation Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal was founded in 1958 in Marseille and has about 600 000 members in 52 countries (2002).
The first world championships was held in 1959.
Pétanque is generally associated with southeastern France, and especially the city of Marseille though it is played throughout the country on summer days. The cliché is that of a group of men playing pétanque, discussing how to shoot the balls, and drinking pastis.