Jai alai

Jai alai (/ˈhaɪ.əlaɪ/; Basque: [ˈxai aˈlai], "merry festival") is a sport involving a ball bounced off a walled space by accelerating it to high speeds with a hand-held device (cesta). It is a variation of Basque pelota. The term, coined by Serafin Baroja in 1875, is also often loosely applied to the fronton (the open-walled playing area) where the sport is played. The game is called "zesta-punta" (basket tip) in Basque.

Jai alai
Jai alai players
Jai alai play in progress
First played14th century
Team membersVarious
Equipmentpelota, xistera/cesta

Rules and customs

Long xistera

The court for jai alai consists of walls on the front, back and left, and the floor between them. If the ball (called a pilota, "ball" in Standard Basque) touches the floor outside these walls, it is considered out of bounds. Similarly, there is also a border on the lower 3 feet (0.9 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. The ball used in jai alai consists of metal strands tightly wound together and then wrapped in goat skin. 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 the ball directly to the front wall so that upon rebound it will bounce between lines No. 4 and 7. If it does not, it is an under or over serve and the other team will receive the point.
  • 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.

Since there is no wall on the right side, all jai alai players must play right-handed (wear the cesta on their right hand), as the spin of a left-handed hurl would send the ball toward the open right side.[1]

The Basque Government promotes jai alai as "the fastest sport in the world" because of the speed of the ball. The sport once held the world record for ball speed with a 125–140 g ball covered with goatskin that traveled at 302 km/h (188 mph), performed by José Ramón Areitio at the Newport Rhode Island Jai Alai, until it was broken by Canadian 5-time long drive champion Jason Zuback on a 2007 episode of Sport Science with a golf ball speed of 328 km/h (204 mph).

The sport can be dangerous, as the ball travels at high velocities. It has led to injuries that caused players to retire and fatalities have been recorded in some cases.[2][3]


Jai alai arena in Mexico City near the Monument to the Revolution.

Jai alai is a popular sport within the Latin American countries and the Philippines from its Hispanic influence. It was one of the two gambling sports from Europe, the other being horse racing, in the semi-colonial Chinese cities of Shanghai and Tianjin, and was shut down after the communist victory there. The jai alai arena in Tianjin's former Italian Concession was then confiscated and turned into a recreation center for the city's working class.

The Philippines

Jai alai was played in Manila at the Manila Jai Alai Building, one of the most significant Art Deco buildings in Asia, which was torn down in 2000 by the Manila city government.[4] In 1986, jai alai was banned in the Philippines because of problems with game fixing.[4] However, jai alai returned to the Philippines in March 2010. In 2011, jai-alai was briefly shut down in the province of Pangasinan because of its connection to illegal jueteng gambling but was reopened after a court order.[5]

United States

Guernica - Frontón Jai Alai
Guernica Fronton, Basque Country, Spain
Miami Jai Alai fronton
Miami Jai Alai fronton, built in 1926 and known as "The Yankee Stadium of Jai Alai" [6]

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 betting at six frontons throughout the state: Dania Beach, Fort Pierce, Jasper, Casselberry, Miami, and Reddick.

The first jai alai fronton in the United States was located in St. Louis, Missouri, operating around the time of the 1904 World's Fair. The first fronton in Florida opened 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 Fronton (the biggest in the world with a record audience of 15,502 people on 27 December 1975) and Dania Jai Alai. Seasonal facilities are Fort Pierce Jai Alai, Ocala Jai Alai and Hamilton Jai Alai. The Tampa Jai Alai operated for many years before closing in the late 1990s. Inactive jai alai permits are located in Tampa, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach, and Quincy. One Florida fronton, in Melbourne, was converted from jai alai to greyhound racing.

By contrast, jai alai's popularity in the northeastern and western United States waned as other gambling options became available. In Connecticut, frontons in Hartford and Milford permanently closed, while the fronton in Bridgeport was converted to a greyhound race track. In 2003, the fronton at Newport Jai Alai in Newport, Rhode Island was converted into Newport Grand, a slot machine and video lottery terminal parlor, which closed permanently in August 2018.[7] Jai alai enjoyed a brief and popular stint in Las Vegas 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).[8][9]

After the 1968 season, players returned home and threatened not to come back unless the owners improved their work conditions. The owners, however, offered the same terms and started hiring inexperienced players instead of the world-class stars. The public did not notice the change. Later strikes were placated with salary rises. In 1988-1991, the International Jai-Alai Players Association held the longest strike in American professional sport. The owners substituted with Americans raised locally, while the strikers picketed the courts for years. The players, 90% Basques, felt insecure submitted to the will of their employers. Spain was no longer a poor conservative country and the new generation of players were influenced by leftist Basque nationalism. The strike ended with an agreement between the parts. Meanwhile Native Indian casinos and state lotteries had appeared as an alternative to jai-alai betting. [10]

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. However, while in the 50s to the 80s a game had 5,000 spectators, nowadays it does not go beyond 50.[10]

Although the sport has been in decline in America for several years, the first public amateur jai alai facility was built in the United States in 2008, in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the assistance of the city of St. Petersburg and private funding from Jeff Conway (Laca). Jai alai is virtually unknown in the western United States but still maintains some popularity in parts of the Northeast.

Amateur jai-alai

In addition to the amateur court in St. Petersburg, The American Jai-Alai Foundation whose president Victor Valcarce was a pelotari at Dania Jai-Alai (MAGO #86) and was considered the best "pelota de goma" (rubber ball) player in the world, sponsors (in North Miami Beach, Florida) the only indoor air conditioned cancha, (once owned by World Jai-Alai as a school that, in 1972, produced the greatest American pelotari, Joey Cornblit #37[11]) that is still open with free lessons from some of the sport's best. During the late 1960s, in addition to North Miami Amateur, there was at least one other amateur court. From International Amateur Jai-Alai in South Miami professional players emerged including "RANDY" #44 at World Jai-Alai, regarded as the first American pelotari who turned pro in 1968 and enjoyed a lengthy career. In the 1970s and early 1980s Orbea's Jai-Alai in Hialeah featured four indoor courts. Two of the courts played with hard rubber balls ("pelota de goma") were shorter than a standard court (75' / 90') & used for training players and amateur leagues. There were also two courts played with the regulation pelota (hardball / "pelota dura"), one short in length (115') and one regulation length (150'). Orbea's also sold equipment such as cestas and helmets. Retired players visited and played as well as highly skilled amateurs, pros from Miami Jai-Alai and various other professional frontons operating at the time. What the South Miami, North Miami, Orbea & later the Milford amateur courts contributed to what is thought to be the golden age of the amateur jai-alai player & the sport in the United States is impressive. In the late 1980s at least one other amateur court was constructed in Connecticut.

At Dania Jai Alai, there is a "Hall of Fame" to document the best front and back court players.

See also

Basque Pelota World Championships


  1. ^ Skiena, Stephen. Calculated bets: computers, gambling, and mathematical modeling to win, p. 25
  2. ^ Steven, Skiena (2001). Calculated Bets. United States of America: Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-521-00962-6. Since the 1920s at least four players have been killed by an jai alai ball...
  3. ^ "The History and Return of Jai Alai - The Art of Manliness". 19 November 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Villalon, Toti (July 15, 2012). "Remember jai alai: Stop making Manila heritage demolition victim". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  5. ^ Philippine News Agency (September 7, 2011). "Jai-alai back with vengeance in Pangasinan". InterAksyon.com The online news portal of TV5. Archived from the original on 13 December 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  6. ^ "WHAT HAPPENED TO JAI ALAI?". SB Nation. 2013-02-28.
  7. ^ Flynn, Sean. "Site of Newport Grand, which closes Tuesday, has had many lives". The Newport Daily News. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  8. ^ Dick Kleiner (Aug 20, 1978). "Reno Gambles On Future". The Prescott Courier.
  9. ^ "Jai-Alai Chronology – Significant Dates".
  10. ^ a b A Basque-American Deep Game: The Political Economy of Ethnicity and Jai-Alai in the USA, Olatz González Abrisketa, pages 179-198, Studia Iberica et Americana 4, December 2017 ISSN 2327-476X
  11. ^ "Sport: Did Joey Eat?". Time. 30 January 1978.

External links


Asegarce is a Basque event production and deportive license company, mainly devoted to Basque pelota. Through the Bainet company, it has also made audiovisual productions.

Basque pelota

Basque pelota (pilota in the original Basque language also pelota vasca in Spanish, pelote basque in French) is the name for a variety of court sports played with a ball using one's hand, a racket, a wooden bat or a basket, against a wall (frontis or Fronton) or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net. The roots of this class of games can be traced to the Greek and other ancient cultures.The term pelota probably comes from the Vulgar Latin term pilotta (ball game). It is a diminutive form of the word pila which may relate to a hard linen or leather ball filled with pilus (fur or hair) or to the Latin words for strike or spade and is related to the English word pellet.Today, Basque pelota is played in several countries. In Europe, this sport is concentrated in Spain and France, especially in the Basque Country. The sport is also played in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Cuba. Operated as a gaming enterprise called Jai Alai, it is seen in parts of the U.S. such as Florida, Connecticut, Nevada, and Rhode Island.

In Valencia, Valencian pilota is considered the national sport; it is also played in Belgium, North of Italy, Mexico, and Argentina.

Since its creation, the International Federation of Basque Pelota has standardised the different varieties into four modalities and fourteen disciplines, with fixed ball weights, rules and court sizes. The four modalities—30 metres (33 yd) wall, 36 metres (39 yd) wall, 54 metres (59 yd) wall and trinquete—admit fourteen disciplines, depending the use of bare hand, leather ball, rubber ball, paleta (pelota paleta), racket (frontennis) and xare. Two of the fourteen disciplines are played by both men and women (frontenis and rubber pelota in trinquete); the other twelve are played only by men. This allows championship play at the international level, and allows the participation of players and teams from around the world using the same rules. There is, however, criticism about this, since purists might argue that some of the original traits of each particular modality could be lost.

Even with protection, accidents do happen. With the ball easily travelling at 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph), pelota can kill if safety equipment is not used properly or at all; while rare, occasional deaths do occur.

Casino Miami

Casino Miami (formerly known as Miami Jai-Alai Fronton) is a 6,500-capacity indoor arena and casino located at 3500 NW 37th Avenue in Miami, Florida. It is primarily used for gambling, jai alai and concerts. Notable past performers include The Allman Brothers Band, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra.

In the past, the arena has been used 89 times for boxing events, including many involving famous former world champion boxers.

After a bankruptcy, an affiliate of ABC Funding acquired Casino Miami Jai-Alai in 2014.

Dania Beach, Florida

Dania Beach is a city in Broward County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 29,639. It is part of the South Florida metropolitan area, which was home to 5,564,635 people at the 2010 census. Dania Beach is the location of one of the largest jai alai frontons in the United States, The Casino at Dania Beach. It was formerly the location for two amusement centers; one named Boomers! (formerly Grand Prix Race-O-Rama), which housed the Dania Beach Hurricane roller coaster, and the other being Pirates World amusement park, which was featured in Barry Mahon's Thumbelina. It is also former home to the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum.

Discs of Tron

Discs of Tron, is the second arcade game based on the Disney film Tron (1982). While the first Tron arcade game had several mini-games based on scenes in the movie (Gridbugs, Light Cycles, entering the MCP Cone, and Battle Tanks), Discs of Tron is a single game inspired by Tron's disc-battle sequences and set in an arena similar to the one in the Jai Alai–style sequence.

El Foro

El Foro is a 3,000-seat venue for concerts in the city of Tijuana, Mexico. A few years ago, this venue was used in Tijuana as a fronton/jai alai venue. In 2002, it was closed by the local government, and was totally reconstructed. It was reopened in 2003. Since then, artists like Julieta Venegas, Facundo Cabral, Luis Miguel and Cafe Tacvba had perform here.

Francisco Churruca

Francisco Maria Churruca Iriondo Azpiazu Alcorta (born c. 1936), also known as Patxi, is a Basque former jai alai player. A native of Mutriku, Spain, he is regarded as the game's greatest player and has been called "the Babe Ruth of jai alai." He retired in 1983, saying "I knew it was time to quit when my eyes were quicker than my legs."

Gambling in Connecticut

Legal forms of gambling in the U.S. state of Connecticut include two Indian casinos (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun), parimutuel wagering, charitable gaming, and the Connecticut Lottery.

Gambling in Metro Manila

Gambling in Metro Manila has been regulated since 1976 when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) was created through Presidential Decree 1067. Under its charter promulgated in 1983, the 100% state-owned PAGCOR, running under the direct supervision of the Office of the President, serves three crucial roles: to regulate and operate all games of chance in the country, particularly casino gaming; generate funds for the government's infrastructure and socio-civic projects; and boost local tourism.Prior to 1976, illegal gambling dominated the Philippines as unlicensed casinos and underground bookmaking operations were opened across the country. Illegal forms of gambling included jueteng, masiao and last two. Among the few lawful gambling activities in those days were church-organised bingo sessions and jai alai wagering at the Manila Jai Alai Building.In 1977, PAGCOR opened its first casino, The Manila Bay Casino, a floating casino which operated in all three decks of luxury liner MS Philippine Tourist off Manila Bay in partnership with the Philippine Casino Operators Corporation (PCOC) and Manila Bay Enterprises, Inc. (MBEI) which was majority owned by the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau of casino magnate, Stanley Ho.

When a fire gutted the ship in 1979, PAGCOR shifted its operations to land-based casinos. By the end of that year, the Philippine Village Hotel built in 1974 at the old Nayong Pilipino complex adjacent to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) became home to the city's first land-based casino.

List of casinos in Florida

This is a list of casinos in Florida.

List of sports venues in the Greater Manila Area

The following is a list of sports venues found in the Greater Manila Area in the Philippines which are in current use. The newest sports venues in the metropolitan region are the Philippine Sports Stadium and the Philippine Arena in Santa Maria and Bocaue, Bulacan which opened in July 2014. They are the largest football stadium and indoor arena in the Philippines which served as the venue for some of the 2015 AFC Cup group stage matches and the first Philippine Basketball Association games for the 2014–15 season.

In 2012, the P3.6B Mall of Asia Arena opened within the SM Mall of Asia complex in Pasay. This indoor arena hosted the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. Other popular venues in the region include the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City which hosts several professional and collegiate basketball leagues, and the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Malate which is home to both the Philippine national football team and the Philippines national rugby union team.

Manila Jai Alai Building

The Manila Jai Alai Building was a building designed by American architects Welton Becket and Walter Wurdeman that functioned as a building for which jai alai games were held. It was built in the Streamline Moderne style in 1940 and survived the Battle of Manila. It was considered as the finest Art Deco building in Asia, until its demolition. It was demolished in 2000 upon the orders of the Mayor of Manila Lito Atienza amidst protests, to make way for the Manila Hall of Justice, which was never built.

Real Club España

Real Club España is a Mexican sports club located in Mexico City. The club hosted a large variety of sports and other activities such as aerobics, basque pelota, billiards, canoeing, climbing wall, football, gymnastics, jai alai, mountaineering, paddle tennis, paleta frontón, rowing, Spanish dances, squash, swimming, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting.The club was mostly known for its football senior team that played in the Primera División de México until it dissafiliated from the league in 1950. During the Era romántica (Romantic era) of Mexican football, Club España was one of the most popular teams at the time, winning14 league titles and 4 Mexican Cups in the amateur years (1902–1943) of the sport in that country. After the professionalisation of football, España won another 2 major titles, the 1943–44 Cup where they beat Atlante 6–2 in the final, and the league in 1944–45 ahead of Puebla F.C. under manager Rodolfo Muñoz.

Roger Wheeler (businessman)

Roger Wheeler (February 27, 1926 — May 27, 1981) was an American businessman, the former chairman of Telex Corp. and former owner of World Jai Alai. In 1981, he was murdered at age 55 in his car.

He was purportedly murdered for uncovering an embezzlement scheme that was going on at his business, World Jai Alai. After retiring from the FBI, H. Paul Rico took a job as head of security for World Jai Alai. He saw the perfect opportunity to set up his former confidential informants Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi in a skimming operation there. The Winter Hill Gang was thought to have skimmed $10,000 per week from the parking lot operation at World Jai Alai, but this was never proven.Upon discovering the thefts, Wheeler investigated; this created major problems for Bulger's group, and led to five or six murders, two of which remain unsolved. When a Bulger underling expressed relief that the emergency was finally over, Bulger replied: "No, it's not over … Roger Wheeler was a multi-millionaire … and he was connected. So dig in … because it's gonna go on for as long as it has to."On March 14, 2001, three members of the Winter Hill Gang — Bulger, Flemmi and Johnny Martorano — were indicted for Wheeler's murder; two other alleged conspirators already dead. In a plea bargain, Martorano confessed to some 20 murders by the gang, including Wheeler's. He was given a 15-year sentence, but was released in 2007 after serving only six years. Flemmi also pleaded guilty to the murder of Wheeler and others and is serving a life sentence. Bulger became a fugitive and was on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list from August 19, 1999, until his capture on June 22, 2011. In 2003, Rico, the former head of security for World Jai Alai and an associate of Bulger's, was also indicted for Wheeler's murder. He pleaded not guilty and died of natural causes while in custody awaiting his trial.

Skimming (casinos)

Skimming refers to the illegal transfer of funds from casinos to outside personnel without official documentation. Skimmed money is usually transferred in cash to evade taxes and to fund organized crime anonymously. The quantities of money skimmed are usually small portions of the casino's total profit so as not to arouse suspicion from regulators or law enforcement.

"In May of 1963...the FBI turned over to the Justice Department a two-volume document called "The Skimming Report," which detailed the illegal siphoning off of gambling profits by Las Vegas casinos to avoid taxes." The report documented how pre-tax profits from casinos were being routed to various organized crime syndicates across the nation. No one could be prosecuted as the FBI obtained its information by illegally bugging casino money rooms. The money rooms are where the cash from the betting floor is counted and recorded on the casino's books.

Skimming by diverting pre-tax profits is just one of many possible methods. In casinos the patron is betting against the house, so the house has an incentive to fix the games (cards, roulette, slots, etc.). In pari-mutuels (horse and dog track, jai alai) the house instead gets a fixed percentage of the total amount bet, so is theoretically less likely to fix the games. However, pari-mutuels use sophisticated computer systems to handle customer bets and a major scandal involving Autotote, a major supplier of these systems, has been exposed.Other methods of skimming, such as arranging for particular employees of organized crime to be allowed to win in rigged games, were sometimes used.

Sport in South America

Association football is the most popular sport in almost all South American countries. There are a wide range of sports played in the continent of South America. Popular sports include baseball, basketball, rugby union, tennis, golf, volleyball, hockey, beach volleyball, motorsports and cricket.

South America held its first Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Two years prior to this, major cities in Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Tanard Davis

Tanard Davis (born January 27, 1983) is a former American football cornerback. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2006. He played college football at the University of Miami.

Davis earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Colts' practice squad during Super Bowl XLI. He has also been a member of the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans. He is now a pro Jai Alai player, currently placing first in the most wins at the Magic City Jai Alai fronton. This is his rookie season and is part of a class of 18 rookie Jai Alai players at Magic City Casino. He is considered a top prospect in the sport of Jai Alai.

Telstar (game console)

The Telstar is a series of video game consoles produced by Coleco from 1976 to 1978. Starting with Telstar Pong clone based on General Instrument's AY-3-8500 chip in 1976, there were 14 consoles released in the Telstar branded series. One million Telstar units were sold.The large product lineup and the impending fading out of the Pong machines led Coleco to face near-bankruptcy in 1980.

Vito Cruz station

Vito Cruz station is a station on the Manila Light Rail Transit System Line 1. Like all other Line 1 stations, Vito Cruz station is above-ground. The station serves Malate in Manila and is the first station from Baclaran and the last station from Roosevelt to lie within Manila city bounds. The station takes its name from the former Vito Cruz Street (now Pablo Ocampo Sr. Street), which was named after a former alcalde mayor of Pasay ca.1871.

The station is the fifth station for trains headed to Roosevelt and the sixteenth station for trains headed to Baclaran. The station is near some major landmarks, such as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas complex, the Harrison Plaza and University Mall shopping centers and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, where some of the sports in previous Southeast Asian Games were played. The Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex is near this station as well. Located in this complex is the CCP Main Building, the Philippine International Convention Center, Folk Arts Theater, Manila Film Center and the Harbour Square.

The station is also close to some educational institutions, such as the main campus of Arellano University, De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, and St. Scholastica's College. The station is also near Manila's main pelota court, where all of the city's jai-alai games were played.

Vito Cruz station is notorious for its unusually high number of suicide attempts. As a result, the LRTA has imposed a "speed limit" on trains entering stations to deter the number of successful suicides.

Fronton grounds
Notable Pelotaris
Pelota at the Olympics
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