How To Keep Score In Pickleball

Pickleball, which combines elements of multiple sports like tennis and badminton, is gaining worldwide popularity due to its fun and competitive nature. However, if you are a newcomer, one aspect that can be a bit challenging is keeping score. Whether you are playing singles or doubles, understanding the pickleball scoring system based on its strategic depth is crucial to play the game correctly. That said, let's explore more about how to keep score in pickleball in this detailed guide.

Scoring Basics Of Pickleball

Before we dig deeper into how to keep score in pickleball, let’s first have a look at some of its basics that you must know:

  • A single match consists of three rounds. The team that wins two of them is considered the overall winner.
  • Each round is played till a player or team scores 11 points. However, there must be a margin of two points between the losing and the winning team. Therefore, if the game is tied at 10-10, the score would automatically have to exceed 11 points to ensure a two-point margin.
  • You can only score in pickleball when serving.
  • In singles, the score is announced in a two-number format, while a three-number format is used for doubles.

While the above rules are commonly followed, there may be a bit of variation when it comes to some major tournaments. For example, the one organized by PPA includes 5 total rounds. The team or player that manages to lead 3 of them is declared the winner.

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Traditional Pickleball Scoring Vs. Rally Scoring

As we mentioned earlier, only the serving team can traditionally score in pickleball. To score maximum points, it's essential to maintain the rally. However, if you lose it, there won't be a deduction in your points. Instead, the serving opportunity would go to the opposing team. This way, your chance to score would be halted until the players on the other side of the court lose their rally.

Contrarily, the rally scoring method is different from that mentioned above. Under it, each team will be awarded a point after a rally, irrespective of whoever is serving. Simply put, the rally scoring system gives chances for both the offense and defensive teams to score points, depending on who manages to win a rally. This leads to a more aggressive play from both the sides.

Here's a brief comparison of both scoring systems:

AspectTraditional ScoringRally Scoring
Scoring OpportunityOnly the serving team can score pointsBoth serving and receiving teams can score points
Game LengthPlayed to 11 pointsPlayed to 21 points
Server TrackingNeed to keep track of the server (complexity in score calling)Simplified; no need to keep track of the server
Positional AdvantageStrong emphasis on the serving side; the serve team often has a strategic advantageBalanced; both teams have equal opportunities to score
Side-OutsDouble side out system, both players on a team serve before service changes.Single side out; service changes immediately after losing a rally
Court PositionPlayers switch from left to right when they win points on the serve teamPlayers usually stay on the same side of the court for the entire game

Should I Call Out The Pickleball Score Loud?

When playing casually, you are not obligated to call out the pickleball score as a server. However, it's a good idea to do so to ensure precise tracking of the points. On the contrary, it's necessary to say the score out loud when playing a tournament on a higher level. It is mentioned in the 4.A.1. rule of this sport. If a player fails to do this, it might result in a fault with either a side-out or a change in the points awarded. In some scenarios, a fault may even lead to a stop in play. The sequence of score calling is as described below:

  • Your score
  • Your opponent's score
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This is for singles. When you are playing doubles, the third number should indicate your position as the server. Let's understand this with an example. Your score is 3, that of the opposing team is 6, and you are serving in the second position in your team. In this case, the score will be called out as 3,6,2.

If the opposing team calls out the wrong score, you can point it out. However, here are some scenarios that you must be aware of when doing so:

  • If play is stopped by you to point out the wrong score before hitting a rally's third shot, then the server or referee can call out the correct points, and the game will continue.
  • It won't apply if you point out the issue of the wrong score after hitting the third shot of a rally. Instead, this would be considered a fault, resulting in the loss of the rally for stopping the play.
  • If you stop the play to point out an incorrect score, but it's not proven right, then it will also be considered as a fault on your part.

How To Score In Singles Pickleball?

Singles pickleball is played with one player on each side of the court. This eliminates the concept of a second server. This means that a side-out would happen when the first player to serve loses a rally. Singles are started from the right side of the court; afterward, the score decides which side the player must serve from. For instance, if your points are even, you must serve from the right side of the court. Similarly, in case of the odd score, you'll have to move towards the left side for serving.

How To Score In Doubles Pickleball?

When you are playing doubles, you must win rallies to score points. Rally is basically started by the serving team, and it continues with hitting the ball back and forth until there is a fault. This could happen when the ball lands out of bounds by either team.

When it comes to serving in doubles pickleball, each player gets their due. For example, the player standing on the court's right side will be server 1, who continues to serve until the loss of a rally occurs. However, the server must switch sides of the court with the other team members after a point is scored. When the rally is lost, the second player in the team will get the chance to serve. Upon losing it, there would be a side-out where server 1 of the opposing team will serve, and this will continue till either team scores 11 points.

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Exploring The Two-Serve Rule Exception

In doubles pickleball, there is an exception in the serving rule that is applied to ensure equal opportunities for both teams to serve. With it, the server on the court’s right side (the one who initiates the game) is considered server 2 as well in the beginning. Once they lose a rally, a side-out will immediately occur with the chance to serve going towards the opposing team and not the other team member.

This is just for the initial serve and side-out. Afterward, the game will follow the two-serve rule, just as we mentioned. Besides that, server 1 will not have that position throughout the game. Instead, the player on the right side of the court will get the opportunity to serve first when the opposing team loses a rally. This ensures that both players in the team would get equal chances to serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Sets Do You Need To Win In Pickleball?

Pickleball typically includes three sets in a single match. A team or player must lead in two of them to win.

How To Decide Who Will Serve First In Pickleball?

To select who serves first, the players can do a coin toss. The winner will get to decide whether they want to serve first or pass on this opportunity to the opposing team.

Are Games Played To 15 Points In Pickleball?

Traditional pickleball games are played for up to 11 points. In case of a round tie at 10-10, then it can exceed the 11-point limit as the winning team must have a two-point margin compared to the losing one. However, a few tournaments follow an exception where the team to reach 15 or 21 points first is declared the winner.


The guide on how to keep score in pickleball explains everything about the scoring system of this sport. From winning criteria to calling out scores and the differences between singles and doubles scoring, we have discussed it all. Whether you are playing professionally or are involved in casual gameplay, knowing pickleball scoring is a must to enjoy the game to its fullest. So, which pickleball format do you prefer - a 3-set or a 5-set match? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Emma James

A distinguished writer with an impressive 8-year track record of contributing to various prominent informational websites.

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