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Everything You Need To Know About Pickleball Scoring

A Guide To Knocking Up Points, Rules, and Techniques

July 26 2023
score in pickleball
Photo Credit: Courtside Tennis & Pickleball

Scoring in Pickleball

Welcome to our guide on pickleball scoring, where we'll dissect this newfound artform and take you from novice score-keeper into an undisputed king of the court.

Pickleball scoring is pretty simple: it's all about gaining points when you serve and denying your opponents that joy when they attempt the same. More points = you win!

Let’s take a look at how to score and discuss the rules that govern the growing sport – pay attention, your pickleball championship dreams might depend on it.

How To Keep Score In Pickleball: The Basics

pickleball game
Pickleball Scorekeeper is a great mobile app to keep track of your games. Photo Credit: Pickleball Rookie

Here are the basics:

  • Pickleball is (typically) played to 11 points, with each chance to score resulting in one point awarded.

  • You must win by two points.

  • The player on the right service court will always serve first (in doubles).

  • You can only score points when you are serving.

Trying to score in pickleball for the first time can feel like your first dance – awkward but exciting. Once you learn the rhythm, you're soon gliding with grace. Points are only scored by the serving team when the opponent commits a fault, which includes hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to return the serve, or volleying the ball in the non-volley zone.

How To Read A Pickleball Score

serving team wins
Photo Credit: Sports EdTV

When keeping score in pickleball, three numbers are always announced in order: the serving team's score, the receiving team's score, and the server number (either 1 or 2 for doubles). In singles, the server number is not announced.

Scoring in Singles vs Doubles:

  • Singles: The score is made up of two numbers (0-0). The first number represents the server's score, while the second number represents the receiver's score.

  • Doubles: The score is made up of three numbers (0-0-0). Similar to singles scoring, the first number represents the serving team's score, the second number the receiving team's score, and the third number represents the server number, which would be either 1 or 2. For example, if the score is 6-4-2, it would mean that the serving team has 6 points, the receiving team has 4 points, and the second server is serving for the serving team.

Now picture this: you're in the middle of a riveting game. The score is 5-4-2. You're the serving team, leading with 5 points, and the opposing team has 4 points. The "2" indicates that you're the second server. It's your last chance to score points before the serve shifts. Tension high, crowd silent, you serve. The ball flies, a streak of white against the blue sky. The game is all but putty in your hands.

server score
Photo Credit: Pickleball Effect

Singles Vs. Doubles

first team
Photo Credit: Chicken N Pickle

The differences between singles and doubles scoring, although subtle, bring some complexity. In singles, you serve from the right-hand court when your score is even, and from the left when it’s odd. There's no second server, so after a fault, the serve simply passes to the opponent. It's a dance solo on the pickleball court, and the spotlight is solely on you.

While serving in singles pickleball is pretty straightforward, it's a little more intricate in doubles play. The game begins with the first server from the serving team (let’s call this player the "initial server"). The initial server* will continue to serve until a fault is made. The serve then goes to the partner, the "second server". The second server continues to serve until they also make a fault – only then do serving duties pass over the net to the other team. In other words, service duties don't pass to the opponent's court until both partners have faulted, and the rest of the match follows this order.

*note: The initial server always starts their serve from the right-hand side of the court.

Beyond Points: Love and Joy in Pickleball 

same server number
Ben and Collin Johns after winning the Men's Doubles title | Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Scoring in pickleball is easy to learn, but hard to master. It's about more than just the numbers; it's about strategy, knowing when to serve, when to volley, when to let the ball bounce. When in doubt, just remember the old adage that holds true for (almost) every sport: more points = you win.​

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