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Playing and Gambling Jai alai

Jai alai is a fast indoor game that combines the plays of lawn tennis, lacrosse, and handball. In the Basque Language, Jai alai means "merry festival". Origins of the game may have come from the Basque Provinces, north of Spain. This sport has been popular in Latin America, Spain, and Egypt. The state of Florida also exhibits jai-alai games, where it is played with a pari-mutuel betting system.

The court used in jai alai has a three-sided enclosure with a front wall made of granite or cement, then a sidewall and a back wall. Both the front and back walls measures 35 square feet and stands 175 to 200 feet apart. Another wall has a glass screen that separates the audience. The ceiling is very high so that there would be a large projectile for the ball. The ball used in the game weighs about 130-140 grams, have 2 inches in diameter, and it is covered with goat skin. In a high speed game, the ball travels as much as 180 mph.

When volleying for the ball, players use a glove and a cesta, which is curved wicker basket. Cesta is 2 feet long. Players strap it on their wrist that it becomes an effective extension of the forearm. Players catch the ball with the cesta and hurl it toward the wall at fast speeds.

During a serve, a player should stand about three quarters away from the front wall and hurls the ball forward. The ball should bounce off a fair territory wall, where an opponent catches with his cesta to hurl it again against the front wall. This play alone is a complete cycle. Afterwards, the ball can be hurled on the back and side walls. Players are prohibited to touch the ball and are not allowed to run with it.

A point is awarded to the player who hurls the ball to an opponent who fails to return it properly; or if he misses it; or when returned, the ball bounces too high or too low on the wall. Any player who loses a point then returns to the end of a queue of players awaiting their turn. Oftentimes, there are eight players that play singles or doubles, to compete in five, six, or seven point games.

In the United States, jai-alai is enjoyed as the alternative pari-mutuel gambling to greyhound and horse racing. Miami was the first city to operate a Jai-alai fronton in 1924.

 
 
 

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