Demystifying the Pickleball Scoring System: How Does Scoring Work in Pickleball?

In pickleball, the scoring system is fairly straightforward. The game is played to a specific number of points, typically 11 or 15. You can only score a point when you are serving. The serving team will continue to serve until they commit a fault, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net. When a fault occurs, the opposing team has the opportunity to serve and score points. In order to win a game, a team must be the first to reach the designated number of points, but there is a catch. The winning team must also have a two-point lead over their opponents. This means that even if a team reaches 11 or 15 points, the game will continue until there is a two-point difference. Scoring in pickleball requires both skillful serving and strategic play to outscore your opponents.

Understanding the Basics of Pickleball Scoring

Scoring in pickleball follows a unique system that may seem confusing at first, but once you understand the basics, it becomes much easier to keep track of the score and enjoy the game. In this section, we will dive into the details of how scoring works in pickleball.

Scoring Format

Pickleball uses a rally scoring system, which means that points can be scored by both the serving and the receiving teams. Unlike traditional scoring systems where only the serving team can score points, pickleball allows for more opportunities to score.

Each game is typically played to 11 points, although some variations may use a 15-point or 21-point system. The winning team must have a two-point advantage over their opponents to win the game.

Side Out Scoring

Side-out scoring is an important aspect of pickleball scoring. It means that the serving team loses their serve if they fail to win a point. When this happens, the other team gets the chance to serve and score points for themselves. This ensures that both teams have equal opportunities to score and keeps the game competitive.

Side-out scoring occurs when the serving team commits a fault, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, or when the receiving team successfully returns the ball and wins the rally. The receiving team then gains the right to serve and has the chance to score points.

Switching Sides

  • In pickleball, players switch sides after the first game and then every subsequent odd-numbered game (e.g., the third game, fifth game, etc.).
  • This is done to ensure that neither team has an advantage due to factors like sun glare or wind direction.
  • Switching sides also allows players to adapt to different court conditions and adds an element of strategy to the game.

Keeping Score

Action Points
Serving team wins the rally 1 point
Receiving team wins the rally and gains the serve 0 points
Serving team commits a fault 0 points

To keep track of the score, each team’s points are announced before the serve. For example, if the serving team has 4 points and the receiving team has 5 points, it would be announced as “4 serving 5.” The score is updated after every rally, ensuring that all players and spectators are aware of the current score throughout the game.

Scoring Rules and Terminology in Pickleball

Scoring Rules

In pickleball, scoring is fairly straightforward. The game is played to 11 points, and you must win by 2 points. This means that if the score reaches 10-10, play continues until one team has a 2-point advantage. The only exception is in professional matches, where games are played to 15 points.

Points can only be scored by the serving team. The serving team is determined at the start of each game, and players on that team take turns serving the ball. If the serving team wins the rally, they score a point. If the receiving team wins the rally, they become the serving team and have a chance to score.

In addition to regular points, there are also sideouts. A sideout occurs when the serving team fails to win a rally. In this case, the receiving team does not score a point, but they do gain the opportunity to serve and potentially score.


  • Point: A unit of scoring in pickleball, awarded to the serving team if they win a rally.
  • Sideout: Occurs when the serving team fails to win a rally. The receiving team gains the opportunity to serve and potentially score.
  • Game: A complete match in pickleball, consisting of multiple points and ending when one team reaches 11 points (or 15 points in professional matches).
  • Match: A series of games played to determine the overall winner of a match. It is common for matches to be best-of-three or best-of-five games.
  • Server: The player who initiates the rally by serving the ball. The server must stand behind the baseline and hit the ball diagonally across the net to start the game.
  • Receiver: The player who receives the serve and returns the ball over the net. The receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning it on the first shot.

How to Keep Score in Pickleball Matches

Scoring System in Pickleball

The scoring system in pickleball is fairly simple and easy to follow. The game is played to 11 points, although some players may choose to play to 15 or 21 points for longer matches. However, the basic rules remain the same regardless of the chosen point total.

In pickleball, only the serving team can score a point. If the serving team wins the rally, they earn a point and continue serving. If the receiving team wins the rally, they take over the serve and have the opportunity to score points. The first team to reach the agreed-upon number of points wins the game.

How to Serve and Score Points

At the beginning of each game, the serve starts from the right-hand side (even-number side) of the court. The serving team must begin serving from behind the baseline and aim to land the ball diagonally into the opposing team’s service zone.

In order to score points, the serving team must effectively serve the ball and make it past the non-volley zone, which is the first seven feet from the net on each side of the court. If the ball lands in the correct serving zone and clears the non-volley zone, it is considered a legal serve and the serving team earns a point.

However, if the serving team commits a fault, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to clear the non-volley zone, or serving into the net, they lose the serve and the opposing team has a chance to score points.

Rotation of Serve and Scoring

  • At the beginning of the game, only one player on the serving team serves the ball.
  • The serving team must continue serving until they commit a fault or lose the point, at which point the serve switches to the opposing team.
  • When the receiving team takes over the serve, the player on the right-hand side (even-number side) goes to the left-hand side (odd-number side) and serves the ball.
  • The serving team is allowed to switch positions after each successful point, ensuring that both players get an opportunity to serve throughout the game.

Winning the Game

The game progresses until one team reaches the agreed-upon number of points, typically 11. However, there are a couple of additional rules to keep in mind for winning the game:

  • In order to win the game, a team must have a two-point lead over the opposing team. For example, if the score is tied at 10-10, the game continues until a team has a 12-10 lead.
  • If both teams reach the agreed-upon number of points simultaneously and are tied, the game enters into a “win by 2” scenario. Teams will continue playing until one team has a two-point lead over the other.

Once a team has fulfilled the necessary requirements to win the game, they are declared the winners of the match.

Exploring the Different Ways to Score Points in Pickleball

4. Scoring Points through Faults and Penalties

In pickleball, scoring points is not always determined by hitting the ball in bounds or making an opponent miss. Faults and penalties can also result in points being awarded to the opposing team. It’s important to understand these rules to avoid giving away free points.

Here are some common ways to score points through faults and penalties:

  • Foot Fault: If a player steps over the baseline before striking the ball, it will be considered a foot fault. This results in a point being awarded to the opposing team. Pay attention to your foot placement to avoid this costly mistake.
  • Double Bounce: In pickleball, the ball must bounce once on each side before players can volley. If a player hits the ball before it has bounced on their side of the court or before it has crossed the net, it’s considered a double bounce. The opposing team then earns a point.
  • Out of Bounds: If a player’s shot goes out of bounds (beyond the sidelines or baseline), the opposing team is awarded a point. It’s crucial to have good shot accuracy to prevent your opponent from capitalizing on this mistake.
  • Non-Volley Zone Violation: The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a seven-foot area surrounding the net on both sides. Players are not allowed to volley the ball while standing in this zone. If a player violates this rule, the opposing team scores a point.

It’s worth noting that players are responsible for calling their own faults, but opponents may also make a call if they observe a fault. Clear communication and mutual respect are essential in ensuring fair and accurate scoring.

Fault/Penalty Point Awarded to
Foot Fault Opposing Team
Double Bounce Opposing Team
Out of Bounds Opposing Team
Non-Volley Zone Violation Opposing Team

Understanding the scoring system in pickleball, including how to score points through faults and penalties, is crucial for players of all skill levels. By being aware of the rules and avoiding these mistakes, you can maximize your chances of winning and enjoy the game to its fullest.

Strategies for Maximizing Your Scoring Opportunities in Pickleball

5. Exploit Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

To maximize your scoring opportunities in pickleball, it’s important to recognize and exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. Every player has strengths and weaknesses, and by identifying and targeting their vulnerabilities, you can gain a significant advantage on the court.

Here are some strategies to help you exploit your opponent’s weaknesses:

  • Observe and assess: Pay close attention to your opponent’s playing style and take note of any recurring weaknesses they might have. Look for patterns in their shots, footwork, and positioning to determine their weaknesses.
  • Target their backhand: If your opponent has a weaker backhand, try to direct your shots towards that side of the court. This will put them under pressure and force them to make more errors.
  • Mix up your shots: Keep your opponent guessing by varying your shots. Use a combination of lobs, slices, drives, and drop shots to exploit different weaknesses in their game.
  • Apply pressure: Once you’ve identified a weakness, apply pressure by consistently targeting that area. Keep the pressure on and force your opponent to make mistakes.
  • Change the pace: If your opponent struggles with fast-paced shots, mix in some slower shots to disrupt their rhythm. This can make it difficult for them to adjust and capitalize on their weaknesses.

By exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses, you can create scoring opportunities for yourself and gain an advantage in the match. However, it’s important to remain focused and adaptable, as your opponent may also try to adjust and cover their weaknesses.

Common Scoring Mistakes to Avoid in Pickleball

6. Not understanding the concept of “side out”

One common scoring mistake in pickleball is not understanding the concept of “side out.” In pickleball, the serving team has the opportunity to score points, but if they commit a fault or fail to deliver a legal serve, they lose their serve and give the opposing team a “side out.” A “side out” means that the serving team loses their chance to score and the opposing team gets the opportunity to serve and score. Understanding this concept is crucial to keep the game flowing smoothly and to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Advanced Scoring Techniques and Strategies in Pickleball

7. Offensive Scoring Strategies in Pickleball

Offensive strategies play a crucial role in scoring points in pickleball. By using the right techniques and tactics, players can increase their chances of winning the rally and scoring points. Here are some advanced offensive scoring strategies to consider:

  • 1. Aggressive Serve Placement: When serving, aim for strategic placements that force your opponents into a defensive position. Targeting the deep corners or serving to their weaker side can make it harder for them to return the ball effectively.
  • 2. Third Shot Drop: The third shot drop is a common offensive strategy used to regain control of the game. After the serve and return, try hitting a soft drop shot that lands just over the net. This puts pressure on the opposing team and can lead to them making mistakes or setting up opportunities for you to win the rally.
  • 3. Powerful Groundstrokes: Utilize powerful groundstrokes to put your opponents on the defensive. By hitting strong, accurately placed shots, you can force errors or create openings for winners. Practice your groundstrokes to develop consistency and power.
  • 4. Attacking the Middle: Aim your shots towards the middle of the court, which puts pressure on your opponents to communicate and move effectively. Attacking the middle can create confusion and make it harder for your opponents to return the ball, increasing your chances of scoring points.
  • 5. Utilizing the Lob: The lob is a valuable offensive tool that can catch your opponents off guard and put them in a difficult position. Use the lob when your opponents are close to the net, allowing you to hit the ball high and deep, forcing them to retreat and potentially make an error.
  • 6. Deception and Placement: Mix up your shots by incorporating deceptive techniques, such as the fake drop shot or misdirection, to keep your opponents guessing. Combine this with precise shot placement to exploit weak spots in your opponents’ defense.
  • 7. Transitioning to the Net: Once you have gained control of the rally, transition to the net to put pressure on your opponents. Being at the net allows you to take away time and space from your opponents, forcing them into difficult shots and increasing the likelihood of scoring points.

Frequently Asked Questions about Scoring in Pickleball

How does scoring work in pickleball?

In pickleball, scoring is typically done using the rally scoring system. Both teams start with zero points, and a point is awarded to the serving team if they win a rally. The serving team is the team that starts the game, and the receiving team is the team that returns the serve.

How many points do you need to win a game?

In pickleball, games are usually played to 11 points. However, some players might choose to play to 15 or 21 points, depending on their preference. It’s important to clarify the scoring format with your opponents before starting a game.

Do you have to win by two points?

No, in pickleball, you do not have to win by two points. The team that reaches the agreed-upon number of points first (usually 11, 15, or 21) wins the game, regardless of the point difference.

How is serving rotation determined?

The serving rotation in pickleball is determined at the beginning of the game through a coin toss or by some other fair means. The winning team gets to choose whether their team serves first or receives first. After the initial serve, the serving team continues to rotate, with each player taking turns serving until they lose a rally.

What happens if there is a side out?

A side out in pickleball occurs when the serving team commits a fault or loses a rally. When a side out happens, the serve switches to the other team, and their score remains unchanged. The receiving team becomes the new serving team, and the rotation continues as before.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope these FAQs have helped clear up any confusion you might have had about scoring in pickleball. Remember to communicate with your opponents to determine the specific scoring format before playing, and enjoy the game! If you have any more questions, feel free to visit again later.

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