Bocce is one of the most popular outdoor games among casual players, but there is also tournament play on a far more serious level. The two styles are very different as far as where they are played, but the rules are pretty much the same. You’ll find descriptions of both here.

Number of Players

2-8, can also be played in teams with a maximum of 4 players per team (8 players total).


8 large bocce balls and 1 smaller ball called the “pallino” (or “pea” in some locales). The 8 bocce balls are usually different in color to help distinguish the throws of each player. Each player starts with 2 bocce balls.

Playing Field

For tournament play, bocce is played on a court 91’ long by 13’ wide. The court is divided widthwise by a center line. For casual play, bocce can be played anywhere you’ve got enough room.


For all forms of play, bocce begins with a random player tossing the pallino. In tournament play, the pallino must cross the center line to be a valid toss. The player who tossed the pallino then rolls or throws a single bocce ball. This ball becomes the lie to beat, with all other players considered to be “outside” of it. The next player then attempts to get a ball closer to the pallino or “inside” the first player’s ball. Each player throws until they either run out of bocce balls, or they manage to get a ball inside (closest to the pallino). As soon as a player lands a ball inside, play passes to the next player. Players continue throwing until all balls have been played. This is considered to be one full “frame.”


Only the inside player (after all balls have been played) earns points. That player scores 1 point for an inside ball. If both of their balls are closer to the pallino than anyone else’s, they earn 2 points (1 for each ball).


Be the first player to reach a pre-determined score (usually 13 points).

Tournament Fouls

When playing on a court, things are obviously a little more contained and, therefore, additional rules apply. For starters, balls are disqualified for such infractions as bouncing outside of the court, or striking the backboard (in which case, the offending ball is removed for the rest of the frame. If a ball strikes the backboard and then rolls back into play where it strikes another ball, the ball it hit is placed back in its original position). “Shooting” or lofting a ball past the center line is also generally not allowed. A player may also incur a penalty for a “foot foul” (stepping over a foul line), but this is usually no more severe than having to replay the ball.

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