Jai alai is a form of handball for singles or doubles competition played on a court with one or three walls. Players use a curved wicker basket (cesta) for returning the ball. The game is played most seriously in Mexico City, Havana, and Miami, Fla., and on a less competitive level in southern Europe and Connecticut. The players are professionals, and wagering is common.

The game is derived from either the Aztecs or a Basque variation of handball. It developed in Spain, was imported to Cuba in 1900, and arrived in Miami in 1924.

The ball (pelota) is made of hard, wound rubber covered by linen thread and two layers of goatskin; it is 2 in. (5 cm) in diameter and travels about 240 km/h (150 mph).

The standard rules are similar to handball rules, except the court (fronton) is much larger--176 ft (53.7 m) long. There is one more player (or team) than the number of game points. If a player loses a point he is eliminated, and the next player comes on the court. The first player to reach game point wins. In Miami an alternative form of scoring is used in which 8 competitors play for 5 points. A player sits down when he has won 3 points; the first 3 players to do so compete in a playoff to determine the match winner.

Biblio: Bibliography: Hollander, Zander, and Schulz, David, The Jai Alai Handbook (1978).

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