Bocce Rules: The ABC Way

Bocce is pretty much as straightforward a game as one can find and yet the rules of the game refuse to be easily put into words. I’ve stood in front of countless groups of people and explained the rules to bocce and I have yet to feel like I nailed it. And that’s with a court and balls to use as a visual aid. Here is a comprehensive list of the bocce rules that American Bocce Co. abides by.

Court sideways from above (good)

The rules referenced below are for these 30’x8′ courts. With a longer court, players will throw from within the court (and behind a foul line).

The Basic Rules of Bocce

  • Game is played between two teams of one, two or four. A team of four will split into pairs at either end of the court. A team of two stays together and will walk from one end to the other throughout the game. If you’re playing one-on-one, then you just keep walking from one end to the other with your opponent.
  • Each team plays with four bocce balls that are differentiated by color. The goal of the game is to get your team’s bocce balls closer to the pallino, the smaller target ball, than the other team’s bocce balls.
  • Each frame is played from one side of the court and begins with the pallino being thrown into the field of play.
  • Every throw (including the pallino) must meet the following criteria to remain on the court:
    • Player’s feet must be behind the back wall, extended. Player can move outside the sidewalls to get their desired angle, but cannot break the plane of the back wall.
    • Ball must be thrown underhand and reach the half court line.
    • Ball cannot touch the back wall unless it makes contact with a ball in play first.
  • The team closest to the pallino is “in” and the other team is “out.” The team that is “out” throws until they are “in” or out of bocce balls. Both teams must throw all of their bocce balls to complete a frame.
  • To become the team that is “in” you must throw a ball closer to the pallino, so being the same distance away doesn’t cut it.
  • There are no rules against your ball striking any of the balls in play or the side walls. I know this is the absence of a rule, but you now you don’t have to ask.
  • Points are scored after all balls have been thrown. The team with the ball closest to the pallino is the only team scoring in that frame. Scoring team receives one point for each of their balls closer to the pallino than the other team’s closest ball.
  • If two balls are equidistant from the pallino at the end of the frame, then the next closest ball breaks the tie.
  • The team that scores controls the pallino to begin the next frame. They get to throw the pallino and then first bocce ball. 
  • Each team member must throw two balls per frame, but they can do so in any order.
Al pointing out line on deep P

Hitting the back wall directly is not allowed. Hitting a ball and then the back wall is allowed. Hitting a referee is not advisable.

Rules Specific to Our Game

  • We play our games to 12 with a time limit of 25 minutes. If game is called due to time, the leading team gets the win. If game is tied at 25 minutes, then one additional frame will be played to break it.
  • Scoring four points in a frame is known as a “CASINO” and is cause for both celebration by one team and shame for the other.
  • Golden Rule: Player must have some sort of beverage in hand when throwing pallino or bocce ball. If not, that throw is forfeited.
  • Referee has right to award a “hot shot” to any player at any time, but generally to acknowledge a terrible throw. Other reasons can be getting mouthy with the ref, taking too long to throw or losing a bet.

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