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Beginners playing pickleball on 6 outdoor courts using graphite pickleball paddles

Pickleball Scoring Rules: A Guide

Pickleball Scoring Rules: A Guide

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., with millions of pickleball players or "picklers" grabbing their pickleball gear, ordering the coolest pickleball paddles, and heading for the courts. It’s easy to see why the sport is so popular. Pickleball is easy to learn and fun to play, especially when you’re dinking it across the net with your friends. Whether you learn to play recreationally or for a tournament, knowing how to score the game is a crucial step to pickleball. Luckily, we’ve broken down the rules of pickleball scoring for quick mastery. Here's how to keep scoring for pickleball.

How Does Scoring for Pickleball Work?

When you first hear scores in a pickleball doubles game, it may make you do a double-take. Three numbers seem a bit much. Take a deep breath, though, and remember the basic rules for scoring for pickleball in both doubles and singles games:

  • The serving side always calls their score first.
  • The receiving side’s score is always said second.
  • You can only score points on a serve in traditional games.
  • The serving team keeps serving as long as they keep winning points.

As soon as the serving team faults, hits the pickleball on any part of the non-volley zone of the court on the serve, out-of-bounds, into the net, in the non-volley zone (kitchen) on the court, or before bouncing on each side once, then it’s the next player’s turn to serve.

Most pickleball games are played to 11 points. However, you can also play games to 15 or 21 points. When winning a game, you need to win by 2 points. For example, if a close game is tied 10 to 10, you must score two more points to win. The final score may be 12-10 (or 13-11, etc.) to keep the 2-point rule. A pickleball match is usually the best of three games.

How to Keep Score in Pickleball

In scoring for pickleball rules, the serving team must call out the score clearly before each serve. If there is a discrepancy, resolve it before the ball is in play. Calling out the score before each serve lets everyone know what it is, making it easier to keep track. Unlike tennis scoring rules, there are no unique numbers in pickleball. Points are cardinal numbers zero through eleven (or however high the score goes).

Calling Out Your Score

In singles games, you may hear the score called out in the following ways:

  • "One serving four" - This means the serving team has one point and the receiving team has four points
  • "One to four" - This means the serving team has one point, and the receiving team has four points

Other Phrases to Know

Phrases for scoring in pickleball doubles and singles at the end of the game can also be similar, like:

  • "Game point" - This may be said after stating the score and means that if the serving team wins the next point, they win the game.
  • "Match point" - This may be said after stating the score and means that if the serving team wins the next point, they win the game.

Remember to have the server call out the score before every serve. It is good etiquette and practice, avoids confusion, and is required in tournaments.

Pickleball Single's Scoring Summary Graphic

Pickleball Scoring Rules: Singles Scoring

Pickleball singles scoring is pretty straightforward. You use two numbers to show the score of the serving team (the first number) and the receiving team (the second number). So, whenever you say the score out loud, you will state your score first and then your opponent’s.

Your first serve will be on the right side of the court, and you will serve across the court to your opponent. If you win the point, you switch sides and serve from the left side of the court. Both you and your opponent will continue this pattern throughout the game, meaning EVEN scores will always be served (and received) from the RIGHT side, and ODD scores will always be served and received from the LEFT side. It is a visual reminder of the score that helps, especially after long, exciting rallies.

Pickleball Scoring and Sides Graphic

If you serve from the wrong side, your opponent or referee will call a fault, and you will lose the serve, so keep track!

A Brief Recap of Pickleball Rules Graphic | How Pickleball rules work

Summarizing Singles Scoring Rules

A recap of pickleball singles scoring rules:

  • The first serve for each side starts on the right side of the court or even side.
  • If the server wins the rally, they win a point, switch to their other side, and serve again.
  • If the receiver wins the rally, they do NOT win a point but now get to serve. They serve on the side that their score matches. Even score is right; odd score is left.
  • The server serves until they lose a rally.
  • There are no second serves in single’s games. Each player gets only one serve.
Pickleball Double's Scoring Summary - Scoring for Pickleball explanation graphic

Pickleball Scoring Rules: Doubles Scoring

Scoring in pickleball doubles follows many of the same rules as singles. You state the serving team’s score first, followed by the receiving team’s score. The first serve of the game for each side starts on the right side of the court. You only get points on a serve. The server continues serving and scoring until they lose a rally.

The most notable difference is you state a third number after the score to let your team and the opposing team know which serve you are on. Let’s break it down. In doubles, just like singles, everyone gets a chance to serve. However, in a doubles game, both teammates get to serve before the receiving team serves. The third number tells everyone which serve you are on and will always be a 1 or 2.

For example, you and I just won a great rally; it is now our turn to serve. We are up eight points to six, so I state the score 8-6-1 (serving score-receiving score-server number) before I serve. We lose the service – sorry about that – and it now goes to you. You state the score 8-6-2 because we didn’t get any points, and you, the second server, are now serving.
The only time both players on a team don’t get to serve is at the beginning of a doubles game. The second server goes first because serving is an advantage, and the starting score is 0-0-2.

Our Best Tips for Scoring

The best way to learn to score is to go out and play! Remember to have the server call out the score before every serve. You can state the score in your head for extra practice if it isn’t your serve. Soon, you’ll be pickling and scoring with the best of them.

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