Explained: How Does Pickleball Scoring Work? Uncover the Scoring System

Pickleball scoring follows a unique system that ensures fair play and adds excitement to the game. In pickleball, points can only be won by the serving team. The serving team’s score is always announced first, followed by the receiving team’s score. The scoring system is based on the concept of “rally scoring,” where a point is awarded after every play. To start the game, the serving team serves the ball diagonally to the opponent’s service court. If the receiving team fails to return the serve, the serving team earns a point and continues to serve. However, if the receiving team successfully returns the serve, both teams then engage in a rally until one side fails to keep the ball in play. When that happens, the opposing team is awarded a point, and they also gain the service rights. Games are typically played until one team reaches 11 points, but there is an important twist. If both teams have reached 10 points, a slight modification is made. The game proceeds until one team achieves a two-point lead. This unique scoring system in pickleball keeps players on their toes and can lead to thrilling comebacks.

Understanding the scoring system in pickleball

Pickleball is a fun and fast-paced sport that combines the elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It is played on a smaller court with a low net, making it accessible for players of all ages and skill levels. One of the key aspects of pickleball is its unique scoring system, which can be a bit confusing for beginners. In this section, we will break down the scoring system in pickleball and explain how it works.

In pickleball, the scoring system is based on a point system rather than the traditional game system used in other sports like tennis. The first team to reach 11 points, with a lead of at least 2 points, wins the game. However, the game must be won by a margin of 2 points, so if the score is tied at 10-10, play continues until one team has a 2-point lead.

Each team has the opportunity to serve and earn points. The serving team is the only team that can score points, and they are awarded points when the opposing team fails to return the ball successfully. A point is also awarded to the receiving team if they successfully return the serve and the serving team fails to return the ball.

The serving team starts the game by serving the ball to the opposing team’s service court. The server must hit the ball underhand, and the ball must clear the no-volley zone (also known as the kitchen) in order for the serve to be legal. The server continues to serve until their team commits a fault, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, or until the opposing team wins the point.

Once the serving team wins a point, the server switches sides and serves from the opposite court. This rotation of the serve continues until the server’s team commits a fault or loses a point. When the server loses a point, the serve is then switched to the opposing team, and they become the serving team.

It’s important to note that only the serving team can score points. If the receiving team wins a point, they do not earn a point but simply gain the opportunity to serve. The serving team continues to serve and earn points until they commit a fault or lose a point. This back-and-forth scoring system keeps the game exciting and allows for comebacks, even when a team is trailing in points.

Key differences between pickleball scoring and other racket sports

In pickleball, the scoring system differs from other racket sports such as tennis and badminton. Here are the key differences:

1. Rally scoring

In pickleball, rally scoring is used, which means that a point is awarded on every rally, regardless of which team served the ball. This is different from traditional tennis scoring, where only the serving team can score a point.

In pickleball, each time the receiving team fails to return the ball or hits it out of bounds, the serving team is awarded a point. This encourages continuous play and makes the game more fast-paced compared to other racket sports.

2. Non-volley zone

Pickleball has a non-volley zone, sometimes referred to as the “kitchen,” which is a 7-foot area on both sides of the net. In other racket sports, there is no specific zone where players are restricted from volleying the ball.

The non-volley zone in pickleball prohibits players from hitting the ball out of the air within that area, except under certain conditions. This rule prevents players from dominating the game by constantly volleying the ball and forcing their opponents into a defensive position.

In tennis or badminton, players can volley the ball freely from any position on the court, which can lead to longer rallies and different strategic approaches.

3. Score system

  • In pickleball, games are usually played to 11 points, but can also be played to 15 or 21 points in some cases.
  • Unlike tennis or badminton, where you must win by two or more points, in pickleball, the game ends as soon as one team reaches the winning score (11, 15, or 21) with a margin of at least two points.
  • In pickleball, to determine which team serves first, a coin toss or a spin of the paddle is typically used. The winner of the toss gets to choose whether to serve first or choose their side of the court.
  • Additionally, in pickleball, each team can only score points when they are serving. If the serving team fails to win the rally, the serve switches to the opposing team, and they have a chance to score.

4. Doubles play

In pickleball, doubles play is more common than singles play. This is different from tennis or badminton, where singles matches are prevalent.

Pickleball’s focus on doubles play creates a dynamic team-oriented game where players rely on their partner’s skills and strategize accordingly.

This difference in playing style adds another layer of complexity and strategy compared to singles play in other racket sports.

Decoding the terminology used in pickleball scoring

Pickleball scoring can sometimes be confusing for newcomers to the sport. With its unique terminology and rules, it’s important to understand the basic terms and concepts involved in scoring a pickleball match. Here, we’ll decode some of the key terms used in pickleball scoring to help you make sense of the game.

1. Point

In pickleball, a point is awarded to the serving team when the receiving team fails to return the ball successfully or commits a fault. Points are used to track the progress of the game and determine the winner.

2. Side Out

A side out occurs when the serving team fails to win a point and the serve switches to the opposing team. In other words, if the serving team commits a fault or fails to score a point, it’s a side out, and the serve moves to the other team.

3. Rally

A rally is a sequence of shots exchanged between the two teams, starting with the serve and ending with a fault or a point. The objective of each team during a rally is to keep the ball in play and try to score a point by hitting the ball in such a way that the opposing team cannot return it successfully.

During a rally, players use different techniques such as dinks, volleys, and smashes to strategically place the ball and gain an advantage over their opponents. A well-executed rally requires quick reflexes, good positioning, and the ability to anticipate your opponents’ moves.

4. Game

In pickleball, a game is typically played to 11 points, with the winning team needing to win by a margin of at least 2 points. This means that if the score reaches 11-10, the game continues until one team has a 2-point lead.

5. Match

A match in pickleball is made up of multiple games, usually played in a best-of-three or best-of-five format. The first team to win the predetermined number of games wins the match. Scoring for matches can vary depending on the tournament or league rules.


Understanding the terminology used in pickleball scoring is essential for players who want to fully enjoy and participate in the sport. By knowing the meaning behind terms like “point,” “side out,” and “rally,” you’ll be better equipped to follow the game and appreciate the strategies and skills involved. So, the next time you step onto a pickleball court, you’ll be able to decode the scoring and play with confidence.

The role of faults and let calls in pickleball scoring

In pickleball, faults and let calls play an important role in the scoring system. They can result in points being awarded or lost, and understanding how they work is crucial for players to navigate the game successfully.


A fault occurs when a player fails to comply with the rules of the game. It can lead to the loss of a point or the end of a rally, depending on the specific circumstances. Here are some common situations where faults may occur in pickleball:

  • Service faults: A player commits a service fault when they fail to serve the ball over the net or into the proper service court. This can result in the loss of a point, and the opponent gets the opportunity to serve.
  • Foot faults: Stepping on or over the baseline or kitchen line while serving is considered a fault. It can lead to the loss of a point or the end of a rally, depending on the stage of the game.
  • Double bounce faults: If the ball bounces more than once on one side of the net before the opponent hits it back, it’s a fault. The opposing team gains a point, and the serve is awarded to them.
  • Out of bounds faults: Hitting the ball out of bounds results in a fault. The opposing team scores a point, and they get the opportunity to serve.

Let calls:

A let in pickleball occurs when there is interference during play that affects the shot. The point is replayed if a let call is made by an official or the players themselves. Here are some situations where let calls may come into play:

  • Interference from the opponent: If the opponent’s actions or movement obstructs the player’s ability to make a shot, a let can be called. The rally is replayed, and no point is awarded.
  • Ball hits the net: When a served ball hits the net and lands in the proper service court, it’s called a let. The serve is replayed, and no point is scored.
  • Serve receiver is not ready: If the receiving player is not ready to receive the serve, they can call a let. The serve is replayed, and no point is awarded.

The Impact of Faults and Let Calls:

Loss of pointOpponent gains a point and gets the opportunity to serve
End of rallyOpponent gains a point and gets the opportunity to serve
Replay of the pointNo point is awarded, and the rally is replayed

Faults and let calls add an additional layer of strategy and fairness to the game of pickleball. They ensure that players adhere to the rules and maintain a level playing field. It’s important for players to stay aware of the rules and be prepared to make the appropriate calls when necessary. By understanding the role of faults and let calls, players can navigate the game and strive towards victory.

Exploring the impact of strategy on pickleball scoring

Pickleball scoring is not just about hitting the ball over the net and hoping for the best. Strategy plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of each point and ultimately the overall score of a pickleball match. By employing smart strategies, players can gain an edge and increase their chances of scoring points.

1. Placement

One key strategy in pickleball scoring is ball placement. Instead of trying to hit the ball as hard as possible, skilled players focus on placing the ball strategically. By aiming for empty spots on the opponent’s side of the court, players can force their opponents to make difficult shots or create opportunities for themselves to score. This strategy requires accuracy and good court awareness.

2. Dinking

Dinking is a technique in pickleball where players hit the ball softly over the net. This strategy is commonly used in the kitchen or non-volley zone. By employing dinks, players can keep their opponents off balance and prevent them from attacking. Dinking requires touch and finesse, as the goal is to place the ball just over the net, making it difficult for the opponent to return without committing a fault.

3. Lobbing

Lobbing is another strategic move in pickleball scoring. By hitting the ball high and deep into the opponent’s court, players can force their opponents to retreat and potentially hit weak returns. Lobbing is effective against opponents who are positioned close to the net, as they have to quickly adjust and move backwards to retrieve the lob. This strategy can disrupt the opponent’s rhythm and create scoring opportunities.

4. Communication

Effective communication between doubles partners can greatly impact pickleball scoring. By communicating and coordinating their actions, players can strategically position themselves and capitalize on their strengths. For example, one player may take charge at the net while the other covers the baseline, ensuring maximum court coverage. Communication also helps avoid confusion and prevent unforced errors, ultimately leading to more points.

5. Adapting to opponents

  • One of the most important aspects of strategy in pickleball scoring is the ability to adapt to different opponents. Each opponent may have a unique playing style and strengths. By observing and analyzing the opponents’ patterns and tendencies, players can adjust their strategy accordingly. This may involve making changes in shot selection, pace of play, or positioning on the court. Adapting to opponents can disrupt their game plan and increase the chances of scoring points.
  • Players should also be aware of their opponents’ weaknesses and exploit them. For example, if an opponent has difficulty returning shots to a particular corner of the court, players can strategically aim for that area to put pressure on the opponent. Adapting to opponents requires quick thinking and the ability to adjust one’s game plan on the fly.
  • Furthermore, players should be mindful of their own strengths and leverage them to their advantage. By playing to their strengths, players can exploit opportunities and maximize their scoring potential. This could involve utilizing power shots, playing aggressive or defensive, or relying on specific shots that they have mastered.

Scoring Variations in Recreational and Competitive Pickleball

6. Unique Scoring Rules in Competitive Pickleball Tournaments

Competitive pickleball tournaments may have some unique scoring rules that differ from the standard game. These variations are usually implemented to increase the level of competition and add excitement to the matches.

One common variation is the use of rally scoring, where a point is awarded after every rally, regardless of which team served. This speeds up the game and encourages players to focus on each point. Another variation is the switch-side rule, where players switch ends of the court after every odd-numbered point to ensure fairness.

Some tournaments also implement no-let serves, which means that if the serve hits the net tape and still lands in the correct service court, it is considered a good serve and play continues. This rule prevents players from relying on luck or getting an unfair advantage from a let serve.

In addition, certain tournaments may use the “two out of three” scoring system. Instead of playing a single game to 11 points, players compete in a best-of-three sets format. Each set is played to a certain number of points, usually 11 or 15, and the player or team that wins two sets first is declared the winner of the match.

Another scoring variation is the “win by two” rule. In some tournaments, players must win by a margin of two points instead of the standard one-point advantage. This rule ensures that matches are more competitive and prevents games from potentially lasting too long due to multiple deuce situations.

Lastly, some competitive tournaments may also incorporate tiebreakers if a match reaches a certain point. These tiebreakers, commonly known as “sudden death” or “golden point,” require players to win a single point to win the match when a certain score or time limit is reached. This adds an element of suspense and determines the winner quickly in the event of a close match.

Tips for keeping score accurately in pickleball matches

Accurate scoring is crucial in maintaining fairness and integrity in pickleball matches. By following a few simple tips, you can ensure that you keep score accurately and avoid any confusion or disputes during gameplay.

1. Pay close attention to each point

In pickleball, points can be scored quickly, so it’s important to stay focused and pay attention to every point. Make sure to closely watch the ball and the actions of the players to accurately determine when a point is scored.

2. Use a scorecard or scoreboard

Keeping track of the score can be made easier with the use of a scorecard or a scoreboard. These tools provide a visual representation of the score, making it less likely for mistakes to occur. It’s a good idea to have a designated scorekeeper who can handle this task.

3. Familiarize yourself with the scoring system

Pickleball has a unique scoring system that may differ from other sports you are familiar with. Take the time to understand the rules and scoring system of pickleball, including how to score points and when to switch sides.

4. Communicate with your partner and opponents

Clear communication is key in pickleball matches. Before each point, make sure to discuss the score with your partner and opponents to ensure everyone is on the same page. This can help avoid any misunderstandings or disagreements about the current score.

5. Double-check the score regularly

Mistakes can happen, so it’s important to double-check the score regularly, especially after a long rally or a disputed point. Take a moment to confirm the score with your partner and opponents to ensure it is accurate.

6. Stay calm and composed

In the heat of competition, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose track of the score. Try to stay calm and composed throughout the match, focusing on the game and the score to maintain accuracy.

7. Seek clarification when in doubt

  • If you are unsure about a specific rule or scoring situation, don’t hesitate to seek clarification from an experienced player or a referee.
  • Ask for confirmation from your partner or opponents if there is any disagreement about the score.
  • During breaks or changeovers, you can also consult the rulebook or ask the referee for guidance on scoring.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pickleball Scoring

How does pickleball scoring work?

In pickleball, scoring is done using a rally scoring system, which means that points can be won by both the serving team and the receiving team. A point is scored in pickleball only by the serving team, and the serving team continues to serve until they commit a fault. The game is typically played to 11 points, but players must win by a margin of two points.

What happens when the serving team wins a point?

When the serving team wins a point, the server moves to the opposite service court, and both partners on the serving team rotate their positions before the next serve. The serving team’s score also increases by one.

What happens when the receiving team wins a point?

When the receiving team wins a point, they do not serve. Instead, the receiving team becomes the serving team, and the server moves to the opposite service court. The partners on the receiving team also rotate their positions before the next serve. The serving team’s score remains the same.

What is a fault in pickleball?

A fault occurs when the serving team makes a mistake, such as serving the ball into the net, serving out of bounds, or stepping into the non-volley zone during the serve. When a fault is made, the receiving team earns the next serve.

Is there a difference in scoring between doubles and singles pickleball?

The scoring system is the same for doubles and singles pickleball. The only difference is that in singles, the server serves from the right-hand side when their score is even and from the left-hand side when their score is odd.


Thank you for reading our guide on how pickleball scoring works! We hope this has helped you understand the scoring system better. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a beginner, knowing how to keep score is essential. If you have any more questions or want to learn more about pickleball, feel free to visit our website again in the future. Happy playing!

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