Progress Publishing Co.

 Jai Alai Rules


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Jai Alai Rules


Jai Alai game

Jai Alai cancha (court)

Jai Alai rules for judges

Jai Alai game rules

Jai Alai scoring rules

Jai Alai equipment rules

Jai Alai foul rules

Miscellaneous rules


Jai Alai game

During Jai Alai game the competition is between two-man teams (doubles) or between single players (singles). Every player (or a team) has an assigned number from 1 to 8. These are the same numbers, which the public makes bets on. By the obvious analogy with the greyhound starting boxes, these numbers are also called post positions. According to the rules, the participants of the Jai Alai matches are chosen by playersí manager and the matchmaker. The purpose of that rule is to assure a competitive game interesting for the public and fair for the players. The matchmaker plays a role similar to the role of racing secretary who plans horse and greyhound races that would make a competitive sense. A playersí manager can manage a group of few dozens of players at the same time and at the same fronton. A manager tries to take care equally of the interest of every player in the group.

Jai Alai playing court and serve rules

The Jai Alai playing courtís size differs from one fronton to another. The standard size is 180 feet long, 50 feet wide and 50 feet high. The frontis (front wall) is 40 feet wide and 40 feet high. The wall is painted in two colors Ė green and red. The red part goes from the floor to 3 feet high. The green area is the place where a served ball is supposed to hit. If a ball strikes a red part itís declared out of bounds.

The frontis wall is built from granite covered be cement. The side wall and the back wall (rebote) are made from cement.

The side wall has painted vertical lines corresponding to the horizontal lines on the floor. These vertical lines serve only one purpose of letting the players know their relevant to frontis or rebote positions.

Jai Alai rules require that a player must serve the ball from a court area between 10th and 12th lines. According to the rules, the ball is supposed to land after the first bounce off the frontis in the part of the floor between 4th and 7th lines. If a ball hits the floor before the 4th line itís called underserve and, by the rules, one point is deducted. If a ball bounces beyond the 7th line itís called overserve and, again, one point must be deducted.

There is a wooden part of the court about 15 feet long on the right side, which is the closest to the public. Itís called contracancha. According to Jai Alai rules, the ball canít land on contracancha after the first bounce off the frontis. Otherwise, this ball is out of bounds. A two-wall serve (a carom), when a ball first hits a side wall and after that frontis is also against Jai Alai rules.

A typical Jai Alai fronton

Jai Alai rules for judges

There are three judges supervising Jai Alai match: a frontcourt judge, a backcourt judge and a center court judge. They sit at the side of the court. The main judge who is a center court judge is positioned at the 7th line. The front court judge is situated opposite to lane 4 and backcourt judge is at lane 11. If during the game one or more rules of the game are violated one or more judges can stop the game and make an appropriate call. In case of a questionable call a center court judge has an authority to make a final call. However if both frontcourt and backcourt judges disagree with the decision of the main judge they can overrule his decision. Jai Alai judges must carry protection against flying balls. The public is protected from the flying balls by the wire net along the side of the court. The players waiting their turn must sit in the protected area close to the back wall.

Jai Alai action and game rules

There are few rules that control the action during the game. According to the rules the ball must be always in motion. There should not be more than a split second before the ball is caught and returned. If that time is too long the rules reward an opposing team with a point. The ball must be caught on the fly or it can bounce only once. The ball can hit the green part of the frontis, side wall, rebote or a concrete part of the floor. By the rules it will be a foul if a ball will touch a red part of the wall, the wire net, the audience screen or a playerís clothing. In case of a foul an opposite team or a player is rewarded by a point. Jai Alai rules prohibit interference by a player, when, for ex. he is blocking another player preventing him from catching a ball. If that happens the point is replayed. However, if a judge decides that interference was not enough to influence a play, the action continues without interruption.

Flow of the game and Jai Alai scoring rules

Jai Alai match is usually between the teams of two players. The teams are chosen by a matchmaker on the basis of their comparative playing skills, which must be roughly on the same level to guarantee a competitive game. The players wear colored uniforms with their numbers from 1 to 8. The match begins with the contest between teams (or players if itís a singles match) No. 1 and No. 2. If a team No. 2 loses a point, it goes to the playersí bench and is replaced by the team No. 3. If team No. 3 loses, team No. 4 enters the game and so on. Any team that loses a point is replaced by the next team. If every team lost one point, the playing rotation of all teams starts again. According to Jai Alai rules, the team is declared a winner after winning 7 points. Jai Alai match usually takes 10 Ė 15 minutes to complete. A fronton con conduct about a dozen matches per day. If two teams have the same number of points and are tied for the second and third places in the competition, the rules require a playoff between these teams to determine exact placing.

Jai Alai equipment rules

The rules require five pieces of equipment: pelota (the ball); a cesta (the sling); a playersí uniform; a T-shirt and a helmet.

A pelota which is the gameís ball is made from Brazilís rubber. It is harder than a baseball and faster than a golf ball. The pelotas can reach the speeds up to 150 miles per hour and that makes them the fastest flying balls in the world.

A cesta is a sling in the form of a crescent-shaped basket. It is made from the reeds woven over a wooden frame. Jai Alai players use it to give pelota a maximum speed. A cesta has a guante (a glove) sewn to it. A player inserts his hand inside guante to move a cesta. Backcourt players usually use longer cestas for faster speed. Frontcourt players use shorter cestas for better landing accuracy, higher spin and sharper angles.

The playersí uniform includes white pants, red sash around the waist and colored T-shirts. If there are 8 players or teams in the match, there must be 8 different colors for T-shirts. The front of the T-shirt must show the number of the team, which is the same as the post position. The back of the T-shirt displays the number of an individual Jai Alai player.

The players (pelotaris) have to wear the protective helmets, which are mandatory. The helmets are made from the hard and durable plastic and filled inside with the thick foam liner.

Jai Alai foul rules

These rules describe the situations when the fouls happen. The foul is committed when:

1)      The ball strikes the screen, the wood part of the floor or any other indicated foul area.

2)      The ball strikes an overhead screen.

3)      A player catches the ball after the second bounce.

4)      A player holds the ball longer than allowed time before returning it.

5)      A ball bounces off the frontis and falls before an underserve line or beyond an overserve line.

6)      A served ball hits a side wall before the front wall (a frontis).

7)      A ball hits fault, underserve, overserve and pass lines.

8)      A ball hits a cloth of a Jai Alai player.

9)      A Jai Alai player fails to catch the ball.

10)  A Jai Alai player fails to catch the ball after the first bounce and before the second bounce.

Miscellaneous Jai Alai rules

These rules cover the certain aspects of the game the playersí duties and conduct.

1)      When a game is started, it can not be stopped until win, place and show positions have been officially established.

2)      When a game is started the post positions one and two must appear on the court to start the action. Post position one will      serve the first ball.

3)      If a ball becomes defective during the game, a server should select another ball.

4)      If a server does not complete the serve or the ball touches his or his partner cloth, the point is rewarded to an opponent.

5)      A served ball must strike first a front wall.

6)      Only one serve is allowed for each point.

7)      In case of a tie after a win position has been officially declared, itís not necessary for the rest of the players or teams to      score the full gameís number of points. When there still remains 5 or 7 players or teams, the play-off for place and show      positions will be for a goal of one point less than the number of post positions still in the game.

8)      Official Jai Alai games are classified into 5 categories: elimination singles, elimination doubles, American elimination,          Spectacular seven, doubles and triples match games.

9)      In the elimination singles and doubles games the number of points necessary for a win position equals the number of post     positions minus one. For ex. if there are 8 teams or players in the match, the goal is to score 7 points to win the match.

10)   The players' t-shirts must be colored according to their post positions: No.1-Red color; No.2-Blue; No.3-White; No.4-         Green; No.5-Black; No.6- Yellow; No.7-Brown; No.8-Purple.

11)   All Jai Alai players must show up on the court and practice before the start of the match.

12)   The players should take the positions off the court before the start of the game according      to their post positions.

13)   The player who is serving the ball has the right to choose the ball. The receiver can only reject it if the ball is damaged.

14)   Jai Alai players are requited to give their best effort during the game. If a judge comes to an opinion that a player performs below his abilities, the judge can suspend and fine a player.

15)   If a Jai Alai player is suspended at one fronton, that suspension is valid in all other frontons in the same gaming jurisdiction.

Copyright Progress Publishing Co. 2006

Selected References:

John Scarne  New Complete Guide to Gambling The Gambling Times Guide to Winning Systems
Kelso Sturgeon  Guide to Sports Betting Alice Fleming  Something for Nothing/A History of Gambling
Carl Sifakis  The Encyclopedia of Gambling Alan Wykes   The Complete Illustrated Guide to Gambling
Z. Hollander, D. Schulz  The Jai Alai Handbook Don Lostritto  Jai Alai Wagering to Win