Jai alai

Jai alai

Jai alai (IPAEng|ˈhaɪəlaɪ in English and IPA2|jaɪɑlaɪ or IPA2|xaɪɑlaɪ in Basque). The term is used to denote a fronton (or open-walled arena) used to play a variety of Basque Pelota called "Cesta Punta", and, more broadly, to the game itself.

The Basque Government promotes it as being "the fastest game on Earth" because of the balls' size. A 125g–140g ball covered with goatskin can travel up to 302km/h (188mph) (José Ramón Areitio at the Newport Jai Alai, Rhode Island).

Rules and play

The court (or "cancha") for jai alai consists of 3 walls (front, back, and left), and the floor between them in play. If the ball (called a "pelota") touches the floor outside these walls, it is considered out of bounds. Similarly, there is also a border on the lower 3 ft (about 1 m) of the front wall that is also out of bounds. The ceiling on the court is usually very high, so the ball has a more predictable path. The court is divided by 14 parallel lines going horizontally across the court, with line 1 closest to the front wall and line 14 the back wall. In doubles, each team consists of a frontcourt player and a backcourt player. The game begins when the frontcourt player of the first team serves the ball to the second team. The winner of each point stays on the court to meet the next team in rotation. Losers go to the end of the line to await another turn on the court. The first team to score 7 points (or 9 in Superfecta games) wins. The next highest scores are awarded "place" (second) and "show" (third) positions, respectively. Playoffs decide tied scores.

A jai alai game is played in round robin format, usually between eight teams of two players each or eight single players. The first team to score 7 or 9 points wins the game. Two of the eight teams are in the court for each point. The server on one team must bounce the ball behind the serving line, then with the cesta "basket" hurl it towards the front wall so it bounces from there to between lines 4 and 7 on the floor. The ball is then in play.

Teams alternate catching the ball in their cesta and throwing it "in one fluid motion" without holding or juggling it. The ball must be caught either on the fly or after bouncing once on the floor. A team scores a point if an opposing player:
*fails to serve so the ball bounces between lines 4 and 7 on the floor
*fails to catch the ball on the fly or after one bounce
*holds or juggles the ball
*hurls the ball out of bounds
*interferes with a player attempting to catch and hurl the ball

The team scoring a point remains in the court and the opposing team rotates off the court to the end of the list of opponents. Points usually double after the first round of play, once each team has played at least one point.

The players frequently attempt a "chula" shot, where the ball is played off the front wall very high, then reaches the bottom of the back wall by the end of its arc. The bounce off the bottom of the back wall can be very low, and the ball is very difficult to return in this situation.

The jai alai industry

In the United States, jai alai enjoyed some popularity as a gambling alternative to horse racing, greyhound racing, and harness racing, and remains popular in Florida, where the game is used as a basis for parimutuel gambling at six frontons throughout the State: Dania Beach, Miami, Ocala, Fort Pierce, Orlando, and Hamilton County. The first jai alai fronton in the United States was located at the site of Hialeah Race Course near Miami (1924). The fronton was relocated to its present site in Miami near Miami International Airport. Year round jai alai operations include Miami Jai Alai (the biggest in the world with a record audience of 15,502 people in 27 December 1975), Dania Jai Alai and Hamilton Jai Alai in North Florida. Seasonal facilities are: Fort Pierce Jai Alai, Ocala Jai Alai and Orlando-Seminole Jai Alai. Inactive jai alai permits are located: Tampa, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach, and Quincy. One Florida fronton was converted from jai alai to Greyhound Racing in Melbourne.

By contrast, jai alai's popularity in the north-eastern and western United States waned as other gambling options became available. Frontons in the Connecticut towns of Hartford and Milford permanently closed, while the fronton in Bridgeport was converted to a Greyhound race track. A fronton in Newport, Rhode Island has been converted to a general gaming facility. Jai alai enjoyed a brief and popular stint in Las Vegas, Nevada with the opening of a fronton at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino; however, by the early 1980s the fronton was losing money and was closed by MGM Grand owner Kirk Kerkorian. The MGM Grand in Reno also showcased jai alai for a very short period (1978–1980).

In an effort to prevent the closure of frontons in Florida, the Florida State Legislature passed HB 1059, a bill that changed the rules regarding the operation and wagering of poker in a Pari-Mutuel facility such as a jai alai fronton and a greyhound and horseracing track. The bill became law on August 6, 2003.

The International Jai Alai Player Association-UAW Local 8868 is the recognized bargaining agent for jai alai players in most Florida frontons. The union had also represented jai alai players and fronton employees in Connecticut until its three frontons permanently closed, and in Rhode Island where at the behest of the gaming regulators, the Rhode Island Legislature abolished the playing of live jai alai in favor of video lottery terminals.


Basque pelota developed from a form of handball, and it is presumed that the availability of a lively ball made possible by the introduction of rubber to Europe from South America permitted players to speed up the game. The next step, it is thought, was the introduction of the gaunt, a simple leather glove worn on the right hand, which in turn led to the use of a flat wooden bat.


An Irish variation of the sport with three players on each side.Fact|date=September 2008

External links

* [http://www.betdania.com/ Dania Jai Alai, Poker, Ponies & Jai Alai] , Dania Beach, Florida
* [http://www.jaialai.net/ Fort Pierce Jai Alai] , Fort Pierce, Florida
* [http://www.hamiltonjaialai.com/ Hamilton Jai Alai and Poker] , Jasper, Florida
* [http://www.fla-gaming.com/miami/index.html Miami Jai Alai] , Miami, Florida
* [http://www.ocalajaialai.com Ocala Jai Alai] , Orange Lake, Florida
* [http://www.orlandojaialai.com/ Orlando Jai Alai] , Fern Park, Florida
* [http://www2.library.unr.edu/journals/10423834/1995/p001.pdf "The History of basque Pelota in the Americas"] by Carmelo Urza
* [http://members.tripod.com/armenta316/Tijuana-History.htm "History of Tijuana Jai Alai"]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jai Alai — (baskisch: fröhliches Fest; [xaɪ ɑlaɪ] auf baskisch) oder Cesta Punta (spanisch für Spitzkorb) ist eine Variante des baskischen Pelotaspiels. Baskische Auswanderer brachten ihren Nationalsport Pelota mit in die USA, wo das Spiel stellenweise… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • jai alai — 1902, Amer.Eng., originally in a Cuban context, from Basque, from jai celebration + alai merry …   Etymology dictionary

  • jai alai — [hī′lī΄, hī′ə lī΄] n. [Sp < Basque jai, celebration + alai, merry] a game like handball, popular in Latin America: it is played with a curved basket (cesta) fastened to the arm, for catching the ball and hurling it against the wall …   English World dictionary

  • jai alai — ● jai alai nom masculin (mots basques signifiant fête joyeuse) Variété très spectaculaire de pelote basque …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • jai-alai — (vasc.) m. Juego de *pelota. Es una palabra conocida porque se aplica a veces como nombre propio a los frontones públicos …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Jai-alai — Del vasco Fiesta Alegre es el nombre comercial que se le dio a los frontones de pelota vasca especialmente concebidos para el espectáculo, por lo que tienen una longitud de 60 metros, y son cubiertos y con gradas. La especialidad que más se… …   Wikipedia Español

  • jai alai — /huy luy , huy euh luy , huy euh luy / a game resembling handball, played on a three walled court between two, four, or six players who are equipped with a long, curved wicker basket, or cesta, strapped to the wrist for catching and throwing a… …   Universalium

  • jai alai — {{#}}{{LM J22818}}{{〓}} {{[}}jai alai{{]}} {{■}}(eusk.){{□}} {{《}}▍ s.m.{{》}} Juego de pelota vasca. {{★}}{{\}}ORTOGRAFÍA:{{/}} Debe escribirse con cursiva u otra diferenciación gráfica. {{★}}{{\}}USO:{{/}} Su uso es innecesario y puede… …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • jai alai — jai a•lai [[t]ˈhaɪ ˌlaɪ, ˈhaɪ əˌlaɪ, ˌhaɪ əˈlaɪ[/t]] n. spo a game resembling handball, played on a three walled court by two, four, or six players who use a long, curved wicker basket (cesta) strapped to the wrist to catch and throw a small,… …   From formal English to slang

  • jai alai — jai a|lai [ haı ,laı, haı ə,laı ] noun uncount a fast game, originally from the Basque region of Spain, in which players catch and throw a hard ball with long curved baskets fastened to their wrists …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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