Jai-Alai Terminology Explained

The Jai-Alai Building

Fronton – The building (or area inside a casino) where the game of Jai-Alai is played.

The Jai-Alai Players

Delantero – The frontcourt player in a doubles game.

Palco de pelotaris – The place where the pelotaris sit while waiting for their turn to play.

Pelotari – A Jai-Alai player, the plural form is pelotaris.

Zaguero – The backcourt player in a doubles game, the opposite of a delantero.

The Jai-Alai Equipment

Cesta – The “basket-racket” used in Jai-Alai

Cestero – A person that creates and/or repairs cestas.

Aro – The wooden frame of the cesta.

Costillas – The ribs of the cesta.

Mimbre – The reeds from which a cesta is made.

Guante – The leather glove attached to the cesta to protect the hand of the player.

Cinta – The cinta is used to tie the cesta to the player’s hand.

Faja – The sash worn around the waist of the pelotari.

Pelota – The ball used in Jai-Alai.

The Jai-Alai Playing Court & Judges

Cancha – The playing court.

Contracancha – The wooden area (out-of-bounds marked area) located on the right side of the cancha, between the cancha and the screen. Any ball landing on the contracancha is out of bounds.

Frontis – The front wall.

Lateral – The side wall.

Juez – Judge, 2 or 3 judges required depending on court size.  Judges carry basket-strung racquets for protection and each judge is responsible for calling fouls in their area of the court.

The Types of Jai-Alai Games

Singles Games – This game format is played with 8-players and only two players are competing on the court at one time.

Doubles Games – This game format is played with 16-players (eight different two 2-person teams) with each team consisting of a frontcourt player and a backcourt player.  Two teams are competing on the court at one time.  In Doubles Games the frontcourt player is the one who serves the ball.

Spectacular 7 – Games are single points until the 8-post has played, then points double and winner is the first one to equal or surpass 7 points with playoffs among tied teams to determine who finishes 2nd and 3rd.  These games can be singles or doubles games.

Spectacular 9 (aka Superfecta Game) – Single points until the 8-post has played, then points double and winner is the first one to equal or surpass 9 points with playoffs among tied teams to determine who finishes 2nd, 3rd and 4th.  These 9-point games offer an additional wager type called the Superfecta which is picking the exact order of the top four finishers and can be singles or doubles games (there are 1,680 possibilities of superfecta outcomes).

Partido – A game where only two opponents (can be a Singles game or Doubles game) play to a fixed amount of single points.  Usually a tournament style game in the US and occurs after the game of a performance. Win betting allowed in some cases.  Note:  Partidos played to 15 points is typical in the US.

The Jai-Alai Serves, Shots and Catches

Buzzball – A ball that is thrown exceptionally hard.

Arrimada – A reverse-spin shot that goes along the side wall. Catching an arrimada is difficult.

Scoop – An underhand catch on a short hop. Douglas at Magic City Jai-alai is highly proficient at the Scoop. Competitor El Barba has referred to Douglas as “The Ice Cream Man” as he is far beyond his few years of experience with the Scoop.

Carom – A shot that hits a front wall and side wall, in any order.

Carombola – A ball that hits the front and side wall, and then hits the cancha and bounces off in the direction of the screen (the net that protects the spectators).

Chic-Chac – A ball that hits the floor very near the back wall, and then immediately hits the wall (very difficult to return).

Chula – The ball hits the base of the back wall and returns without bouncing (it rolls instead). Considered a great shot and impossible to return since there is no bounce. The player Ibon at Dania has a reputation for many Chula shots. Note: A Chula is rare on the Magic City court.

Saque – The serve

Corta – An under-serve, the opposite of a Pasa.

Pasa – An over-serve, the opposite of a Corta.

Dejada – A soft shot that barely reaches the front wall and bounces off it just above the foul line. It will bounce off the front wall, but with a very small bounce due to the low speed, and drop on the floor without much of a bounce.

Pared chica – A ball hitting low on the back wall with a short bounce to the floor. This is another shot that is difficult to return.

Picada – An overhead shot thrown with an exceptional amount of wrist snap. The result of this wrist snap is a great spin, and the ball will hit high on the front wall and bounce off the floor at a very sharp angle.

Pica y vete – This is a shot that is very difficult to return, because the ball hits the front wall and then bounces off the floor in the direction of a player’s box.

Rebote – Any shot made after the ball has hit the back wall.   Also, sometimes the term rebote is used for the back wall itself.

Bote corrido – If a ball slides and slips instead of bouncing, it is a bote corrido.

Efecto – The spin on the ball

Atchiki – The time between catching the ball and returning the ball.  Continuous motion is required after catching the ball and the judge will rule “holding” and the point is lost if the ball is held too long before throwing.

Some Basic Jai-Alai Shots Explained

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