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Jai-Alai: An Old And New Game This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   A centuries old game know as Jai-Alai with its roots in Spain and France has now become quite popular in Florida, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It closely resembles racquetball, with the main differences being the use of the cesta instead of the racquet and having only three walls in play. The cesta is a curved pocket that is similar to the pocket of a lacrosse stick, enabling the user to catch the ball (called a pelota) and then hurl it with force at the front wall. As in racquetball, if a player cannot catch the ball on the fly or after a bounce, his opponent gains a point.

Jai-Alai games are much quicker than racquetball, however, since the first team to score wins the match. The winners (or winner, since there can be teams of one player or two) then remain on the court to meet the next team in the rotation of seven other teams, distinguished by their colors: red, blue, white, green, black, gold, brown, and purple. Each victory gives the winning team a point, and the team that scores seven points first wins the round. After every round the players are reshuffled, so a player is never attached to a particular team.

After watching a round or two, the game becomes easier to follow. The most complicated part, in fact, is choosing among the possible bets. Since minors are prohibited from betting, the intricate system is left to the adults to figure out.

Betting detracts from this otherwise respectable sport, turning the building (a fronton) into a smoke-infested gambling house. Sadly, though the official program details some of the finer points and standard plays of jai-alai, it is doubtful that many of the spectators are familiar with them. But as long as money is there to be won, you can be sure that people will flock to watch and bet on jai-alai games.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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