Monday, June 29, 2009

Player Assessment Makes for a Better Strategy

Tim W. has become quite the accomplished shooter, and with the tried and true "tir au fer" (the shooter avoids using the ground when shooting - allowing more opportunities to shoot - especially with "front-wall" situations) technique of landing his boule directly on top of the opposition's boule. I completely underestimated that move and it cost us that round. A good lesson to revisit: player assessment.

The prospect of having new shooters and improved pointers added to the game experience reminds me to reassess my opposition's skills as well as the abilities of my own team. When I am determining a play - it isn't merely to always get close; but more of my running some variables into a formula to determine what strategy to use...

Variables to keep in mind include:

1) What is the score; and how much in the lead are we (or they). This variable helps me to determine how much of a risk I can (or cannot) take.

2) How many boules does my team have (and who has them!) as well as how many boules my opposition has and who has them. I can then weigh my options (how many shooter/pointer boules I have as opposed to the other team's). As example: If I have all of my boules nested in front of the cochonnet, and the other team has plenty of shooter boules - then I may want to toss my last boule to the back to protect against a disruption of the cochonnet.

3) Am I being offensive or defensive? If the other team only needs 1 or 2 points for the win and I'm down to my last 2 boules, I may simply cut my losses and try to block out any further points from the opposition by laying in a blocking wall. If, on the other hand, I see an opportunity to win by taking out (shooting) a boule, and the risk of a miss would only give the opposition 1 point, then that risk is a good one.

There are, I'm sure, other variables I've left out, but these are the primary ones for me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Classic Cars and a Classic Sport

One of the nice things about where we play petanque in Detroit is that many times we share the space with other events. Cadillac Square Park is a flat open space adjacent to Campus Martius Park - and all Summer long there are different things going on (Jazz Festival, Auto Shows, various promotions) which use some of the space at the parks. This is never usually a problem as there are ten courts of space and we always have a place to play alongside the festivities.

Today was had some very nicely maintained Mustangs on display. Their owners looked a little apprehensive as we flung our steel boules about with resounding cracks! But we were courteous - having players "block" boules from causing possible damage. It was nice too to have car enthusiasts watching our boule play and asking us questions.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Keep your eye on the Cochonnet

Pat and I played a rather nice game today. Pat laid in very good anchored points at the start of each round - and I shot away whatever became closer. By the round's end, we still had remaining boules with which to point as the other team (Mark / Hal / Jeff C. ) depleted their own boules in the pointing.

My shooting was on today as well - unusually. I missed (Mark was keeping record) only 2 shots of ... 9 (or so) throws.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Amazing pair of games today

We had a nice couple of triplettes today. I knew Deric and Ted would save me with their pointing prowess (because I kept knocking our own boules out of 1st place). The games were never really runaways with plenty of rounds played boule for boule. The re was one round in particular where both teams would have boules a centimeter from the cochonnet and yet we'd be nudging out the opposing boules... Maury, Deric, Ted, and Tim W. were basically doing that... Leaving Pat and me to shoot... sometime connect (and sometimes NOT). Overall, some very good playing, with everyone pulling their weight.

Ruzzolone - Cheeseballs!

For thousands of years, the ruzzola has been a sport practiced by Etruscan (now Italian) shepherds and farmers, with a smattering of nobles, clergy and intellectuals thrown in. Once a year in the village in rural Lazio, playing the game brings together young and old. The races are held on defined paths, called treppe, specially chosen with hills, curves and obstacles to make the game more lively.

The game dates back to ancient times, as paintings in the tomb of the Olimpiade in Tarquinia attest; in the game, a ruzzola, a very hard and durable round of stagionato (aged) pecorino cheese in the shape of a discus, was launched down a track.

Today, the ruzzola is usually a disc of very hard wood with variable diameter according to the local regulations, usually from 13 cm for a ruzzola to a giant size called a ruzzolone, even though a round of matured cheese is still sometimes used instead of wood. The game consists of winding a string or belt around the launching ruzzola and then holding one end of the twine to make a fast rotation.

It is often a team effort: the players, divided into teams, alternate while trying to run the cheese as far as possible along the track.

They are not allowed to leave the established path even if the launch lands in a ditch or high grass, when everyone then jumps in to try to find it and keep the game going.

Back on the track, the next throw starts from the point at which the wheel landed by the previous companion team member. Precedence of the shot remains with the player at a disadvantage and it is mandatory to follow the set path.

The team that ends the course with the fewest strokes wins the prize, consisting of a round of… (what else?) Pecorino cheese!
Written by Evanne Brandon Diner, chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maury's New Obut Match 110 Boules Win at Their Very First Game

Maury's birthday was just the other (June 20th) and his family thoughtfully bought him some professional competition petanque boules from Petanque-America.

They are Match 110's which are a very soft carbon-steel boule which is excellent for shooting and knocking an opponent's boules away while keeping your own in play. Good choice!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mark W. Progresses to the Master Shooter Circle

Mark.. Mark... Mark.... what can I say... you've really progressed nicely in this game. Now Pat wants to go up against you. That'll be a good game... shooters.. pointers... perhaps Tuesday!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

We screwed up.

Dear Hal, Brigitte, Paul, Jony,

I feel terrible. What a disappointing weekend we caused you. Our most sincerest apology for making the decision of canceling the tournament Friday evening, rather than waiting until Saturday morning.

On Friday, as you know, we had a heavy rainfall all day long into the late evening. Also on Friday, members of our club were monitoring the field to make sure that it was in a playable condition. Friday evening, based on the fact that the field was literally underwater and completely saturated from foul line to foul line, we made the decision to reschedule the event.

Our mistake was that we should have waited and made that decision on Saturday morning. We did not factor into our decision of the ability of the field to absorb and drain the standing water. We were shocked at how well the field recovered from the downpour.

Our park district permit states that participants are not allowed to play on a soggy surface for fear of damage to the field. That also factored into our decision. From the looks of your photos, that was not a concern.

Note that the field we were scheduled to play on was field number 1. Last year we played on a different field, number 7. Number 1 was the field we were monitoring.

Again, we offer our most sincere apology to all of you. We consider you our friends brought together by our common love of petanque. We hope we have not jeopardized that friendship.

We will try to make it up to you in the future.

Dan Danielson
Chicago Petanque Club

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chicago Tournament (Unoficially) Reopened!

My tournament partner Paul and I were excited about competing once again in the Midwest Petanque Tournament. But when we showed up in Grant Park this morning to register, along with our wives who had made the trip with us from Michigan, instead of seeing a couple of tent shelters brimming with activity and a few dozen people warming up on the field, we were met with a vacant baseball diamond.

Suspecting the worst, I took out my Sprint Smartphone, launched IE, and browsed to to see what the deal was. Our fears were realized -- the tournament had been cancelled due to "unplayable field conditions."

We were perplexed by this development. Sure, there were still some soft spots in the field left over from yesterday's torrential rains, but generally the field looked playable to us. After expressing amongst ourselves our disappointment at having come all this way for a cancelled tournament (on which subject my wife was the most vocal -- but that's a topic for a separate blog entry), and after throwing a few test boules to determine playability, we decided to forge ahead and unofficially reopen the Midwest Petanque Tournament.

There were three competitors, my partner Paul, his wife Jony, and myself. The format was simple -- one winner-take-all round of cutthroat petanque, with each player playing for himself, and the furthest boule after each toss determining who threw the next boule. I got out to an 8-5-4 lead, but Paul shot ahead to 10-8-6. I tied it up, and at 10-10-7, Paul's last shot left him with three points and a 13-10-7 victory for the championship.

Stay tuned for a post on the Awards Ceremony! Place and time to be determined.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Due to nasty weather creating unplayable field conditions, the June 20th Midwest Petanque Tournament has been CANCELED. Please visit the Chicago Petanque Club website in the near future for rescheduling.

Playing the Risk

My own game was pretty fun. We played a few risks, but they paid off. The one I wanted to talk about was the final round, where we had the only boules left (4), the opposition's boules were all just behind (1 foot or so behind) a 2 boule (ours) grouped near the cochonnet and an opposition boule just (4 inches) to the left of our grouping (see diagram).
We wanted the win, but the close left boule would be keeping us at 1 or 2 points. I decided it was worth the risk for me to take the shot on the boule eliminate it and so we'd be able to point in our remaining boules.
The risk... hitting my own boule, knocking the cochonnet to the back boules and making it tough to reclaim a point.
But I figured, I had two boules to use for shooting, so if I did screw upt he first shot, I could try to fix the damage. It happened to work out nicely, the opposition boule was removed, and we were able to point in for the win.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pat Climbs to the Number One Spot

It was a heck of a nice day for boule. My own games went rather well, with very solid pointing from Ted and I even made a shot or two. It wasn't easy, Tim W. made some incredible shots, one iron to iron (Tie au Fer) with a boule blocking the front... he took it out like a sniper. Another, BAM! a solid shot with another blocking boule. But Eric, who joined us in the 2nd game, was pointing in gangbusters, close boules everytime. Excellent.

I watched Pat vs. Maury in their last game - a close one... it was 6 to 6 (7 point game) Maury laid in a boule, then Pat beat it, Maury laid in another closer boule, Pat shot it away, Maury laid in his last boule, also closest... Pat had his final boule... he went for the shot... BAM! knocked the cochonnet to the deep back... his own boule following along like a faithful dog... for the win!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slaughter in the first - Revenge is Sweet in 2nd

I don't quite know how we fell apart for that first game, but Pat, Ted, and I just couldn't make any of our points. Everything was falling away 1 even 2 feet! Meanwhile, Tim C.'s team made it look easy - rolling in boule after boule. A terrible 13/3 resulted.

Let's move on...

The second game (a 7-pointer) - began again with Tim C's team taking the lead. Pat was questioning whether or not he should have called it quits after game-1, but stuck with it. We turned the tables with a nice 3 boule comeback, bringing things to a 5/5 tie... The last round, we saton the point and had about 4 boules left to use. The opposition had 2 boules left (Maury). The best thing to do is concede the point to the opposition, and just lay in some blockers. This wasn't the strategy used, leaving the space open for #7 to roll in for the win.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Aaron joins the big board - and goes for victory with Mark

Despite a 5 point round for Pat's team, they just couldn't muster up sufficient momentum to carry them to a win. I wasn't witness to this game, but I'm assuming Mark's petanque prowess (both shooting and pointing) together with Aaron's penchant for the boule toss - carried them handily towards 13 and victory.

My own game was joined by newest player, John T. who is a southpaw for writing, but favors the right hand throwing for petanque. We started him first, his points landing (esp. when the 2nd boule is played first) close by. But the experience of Maury together with Tim C. was just too much for Jeff C. and me - and though it wasn't arunaway, 13/8 was the conclusion.

Upon rolling back to the firm I saw Brandon (Mr. Saxophone) who promised he'd be by tomorrow, and passing by Foran's Irish Pub, Melissa was outside serving, I was able to remind her that we "do play at noon" - a smile and nod as response.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mike D. cancels Dental Appt. to Attend Boule

In a remarkable display of sacrifice, Mike D. decided to cancel his extensive dentistry surgery so he could attend today's petanque games. He may have lost the game, but he won in dedication points. Who needs teeth anyhow?!

I watched the second game pitting Pat & Jeff C. against Maury and Tim C. in a revenge match. The cochonnet was bounced aroud plenty, and both sides were playing their hearts out. Lots of nail biters, as Pat and & Jeff C. attempted to come from behind - but the substantial team of Tim C. and Maury B. proved to be too powerful.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pat leads the pack with a 2.01 Average

It had to happen eventually... but Kevin and Deric haven't stopped by the piste for a while and so were subject to the .02 knocked off their average rule. They're still okay in the rankings, but another couple of weeks and they'll be at rock-bottom.
My own playing in the first game - stinky... But then I warmed up for the second (Revenge) match, hitting most of my shots - including a nice "tir au fer" (iron to iron) shot.
Pat's 13/5 victory today pushed him to the top of the rankings with a 2.01

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In a word: Abysmal Playing on My Part

Sorry Maury, though you were throwing in points like a champ, my pointing (and shooting) for the mot part was horrendous. I finally warmed up to the situation, but by then we were deep in the hole.

On a brighter note, I wasn't alone; half of the players today also lost!

Multi-Generations at the Tuesday Petanque Game

First, let's talk a little about Pat and Mike's fantastic comeback win. They were down 8 to 10... but then Pat laid in a split-shot, sending away his opponent's two close boules, and then delivered four more to the spot for a 5 point boost.

My own game was lots of fun. We were joined by some young'ns who played exceptionally (especially Callista) and Jeff and I were a tad nervous, being around 2 to 12 ... but then we gave it a full concentrated effort to come back and win it at 13/12.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Boules Magnetized at Pat's Firm

Since I was out of the office on Friday, I lent Pat and Tim my cart 'o boules to use. Suspiciously, I lost 2 out of my three games today. Perhaps a magnetized boule and cochonnet? Hmmm I'll have to run a series of tests...

Chicago's Midwest Tournament, June 20th

Hope all is well with all of our friends in the Detroit area, and hope that every boule is close and in front.

Chicago's Midwest Doubles Tournament is less than 2 weeks away, Saturday June 20. It will be a full one day event on the beautiful lakefront in Grant Park. Make your team reservation today by sending an email to

For more information, email dan or visit
Enter the Midwest Tournament for a great day of petanque.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Petanque in Royal Oak with the Michigan Petanque Club - a hot Sunday!

Joe Zajac, President of the Michigan Petanque Club reporting in:
Hi Guys! Every weekend is getting busier and busier, and this upcoming Sunday (June 7th @ 1 pm) is sure to be even bigger!
Everyone's schedule is filling up with summer-time activities so this weekend may be the last open weekend before the busiest summertime months... Let's really get a strong showing this weekend and start the year off with a big bang!
Looking forward to seeing you all there, Joe.
Here is a nice pic of last weekend's play... very competitive games! But even more fun with our growing ranks amongst our cheering section these days!
It is easy to get to the Michigan Petanque courts in Royal Oak. From the South, just take I-75 up to Exit 61 (11 Mile) and make a left (West) on to 11 Mile, then after 7 blocks, another left (South) on Campbell. You'll hit E. 6th Street in 2 blocks, we're at the Northernmost part of the VFW Park. If you haven't been there yet, it is a beautiful, purpose-built petanque court (space for 5-6 games at once!) with shade trees, picnic tables, and a nearby bathroom facility. Joe will have plentyof extra sets of boules on hand for players.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Terrific Thursdays

Pat and Maury are inseparable - and today they took a win and a loss. Not bad. My own game was joined by Sharon Hunter who, after not playing for a year - really shined today with some close pointings.

Tomorrow, (Friday) I'm out for the day but Pat has kindly taken up the boule cart so there will be the usual noontime games. Keep score for the rankings and I'll plug in the numbers on Monday.

Anti-Squatting Rule for Ranking Averages

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cochonnet Knocked to the Back for the Win

It is the smallest game piece - but the most crucial: the cochonnet.
...and so often overlooked in the strategy.
Today, I watched as Mark and Aaron had their 2 points sitting well protected at around 9 meters. If points weren't cut, they'd keep the win.
Tim W. and Brandon fired in their boules - but each fell too far away. It was down to their last three. Brandon shot into the grouping, but instead of removing the opposition's boule - they kicked the cochonnet free and way into the back (at 13 meters).
Easy pickings! Tim & Brandon already had a boule in the back (always a good thing in case a cochonnet is pushed there) - and the lobbing of the remaining boules ensured a victory.
So what did we learn? That a hail mary shot to the cochonnet can alter the game's outcome.
Other cochonnet hitting opportunities include those times when you're down to two boules (while the opposition is sitting on tons of points) and you want to just slap the cochonnet right off the piste (nullifying the round). You definitely don't want to try to hit out the cochonnet with your last boule if (via Article 13) the opposition would get points for un-thrown boules - keep it in mind.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hitesh - the Master Shooter

Despite Pat's inability to remember his name, Hitesh has been shooting gangbusters these days. Every shot right on target. Eventually, I hope that most ofthe players will take some time to practice shooting - as it is a very useful tool in the petanque kit (especially when playing tete-a-tete).

The main idea behind shooting is psychology mixed with some visualization. When throwing a heavy object at another object there is, I feel, a hesitance to make the direct strike - something about not wanting to hit something dead-on... To overcome this, I throw slightly higher than I normally would - which usually compensates for subconsciously falling short of the target boule. B.S. ? Not sure. It seems to work (for me). The other idea is visualization. The boule is not being fired directly from where your eyes see the target, (obviously) - it is being flung from your outstretched arm - much to the side of your body. Keeping this in mind, consciously adjust for this slight angle. Last... some people swing their arms back and forth a number of times in a pendulum-like motion before shooting... I don't think this is the right method .. instead give the boule some heft to feel it's weight, then be aware of your finger placement on the boule and (I know at this point it sounds a bit silly) don't over-think your throw... just release the boule and let it sail to it's target.

When practicing your shooting (in non-game situations) - I would set up target boules at the 6-meter (6 paces) mark... try some shooting... after some success, move the target boules out another meter... and keep doing this until you reach 10 meters. Shooting beyond 10 meters can strain the arm a bit (when you're practicing so don't over do it). In fact, when the cochonnet is thrown out beyond 10 meters, you should really "take it back" to the regulation 6-10 meter distance to allow for practiced shooting.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Melissa joins the Club and helps with the 13/12 comeback win

Initially, it was me and Tim W. against Mark W. Then Deric T. showed up and we were falling behind in points. It was something like 8 to 1. New player, Melissa showed up hearing about the game from friends and joined our team. A bocce player, Melissa rolled in some very nice points, and Tim W. shot away some crucial boules, and all together - we ascended to a 12/12 game.

The final round...

The close boule laid in by Melissa thwarted the opposition who couldn't remove it. End = 13/12 us.

Melissa also runs a kickball team, part of the Detroit Kickball Association (her team is the Belle Isle Bombers).