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The pickleball scoring rules can be one of the most confusing things when you begin playing pickleball. This is especially true for scoring doubles games.
Once you understand the pickleball scoring rules, though, it will only help make every game easier to follow – not harder. Promise!
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about pickleball scoring so you’ll never feel confused on the court again.
How the pickleball scoring system works
Even though they might sound confusing for a new player or observer, the pickleball scoring rules are fairly straightforward.
Before every turn, the player serving should call out the current score. There are three parts to this score:
- The serving team’s score
- The opposing team’s score
- The server’s “number”
For example, this might look something like
2 – 5 – 1 ( The serving team has two points, the opponents have five points and the player serving is the first to serve during the team’s service. The serving team is currently losing.)
4 – 1 – 2 (The serving team is winning because they have four points versus the opponents’ one point. The serving player is the second to serve during this service – i.e. the other team member has already served.)
0 – 0 – 1 (Nobody has scored yet and the serving player is the first to serve on the team.)
Breaking down a pickleball score
The first two of these numbers are pretty straightforward, but the third one can cause some confusion.
Many new pickleball players assume that you keep your server number throughout the game, but this isn’t the case.
Your server number depends only on which side of the court you are on when your team begins their service.
The player on the right side of the court always serves first, making them Server #1.
Therefore, the player who begins the service on the left hand side of the court becomes Server #2.
Check out our guide to the pickleball serving rules for a full explanation of how this works.
It’s not just common courtesy to call out the score before every turn – it’s in the pickleball rules. A game of pickleball can move quickly, with the score changing rapidly.
Calling out the score before every turn ensures everybody is in agreement and minimizes any unnecessary debates.
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things you need to know about how to score pickleball
Pickleball scoring is pretty easy compared to many sports.
That said, the pickleball scoring system has a few quirks you’ll need to know. But isn’t that true for everything in pickleball?
Scoring pickleball singles games is easy
The 3-part pickleball scoring system above applies to pickleball doubles scoring, but scoring pickleball singles games is even easier.
When you’re playing singles, you can skip the server number altogether – because there’s only one on each side!
Therefore, when you are serving, the scoring is simply: [your score] – [their score]
You always start with your own score
In many sports, the score order remains the same throughout (or perhaps changes after half time).
In pickleball, it changes depending on who is serving.
The server is always the one who calls out the score, and they always begin with their own score.
Therefore, the score of a pickleball game could be 2-3-2 for one round, and 3-2-1 the next round (if the serving team doesn’t score and service therefore passes to the other side).
Make sure everybody hears the score
Yes, you need to call the score before you serve, but you shouldn’t call it in any old way!
There’s no point facing away from the court and muttering the score under your breath so nobody can hear – and it could even be considered deceptive.
Make sure you clearly announce the score so that all players can hear. And, if you can’t hear the score, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the server to speak up and repeat it!
You can only score when you are serving
This is one of the most important pickleball rules! Only the team that is in service can score a point in pickleball.
If you commit a fault, the other team does not score a point, and play continues with no points being scored.
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Only one number will ever change between rallies
Between rallies, only one number will ever change in the score. Let’s use a score of 1-2-1 as an example.
If the server scores, only the serving team’s score will change. The score for the next turn will be 2-2-1.
If the server commits a fault, only the server number will change. I.e. Service will pass to the second server on the team, who will announce the score as 1-2-2.
It’s impossible for the middle number (i.e. the other team’s score) to ever change because the non-serving team cannot score.
It’s also impossible for both the score and the server number to change because the current server continues to serve if they score. The second server only takes service if the first server commits a fault (and therefore doesn’t score).
The only time this pickleball scoring rule doesn’t apply is when there is a let serve.
Every game starts with a score of 0-0-2
Every turn begins with Server 1, except for at the start of the game. Only one person from the team that takes service first can serve before service passes to the other team.
This is t0 minimise the advantage of serving first, and means that every game of pickleball begins with a score of 0-0-2 (not 0-0-1).
You can continue to score until you commit a fault
One of the fundamental rules of pickleball is that you continue to serve until you commit a fault.
That means that, when you score in pickleball, you get to serve again.
When you commit a fault, you lose the chance to serve until everybody else has committed a fault while serving. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the game won’t be over before that happens!
You have to win by at least two points
The winning team in pickleball is the first to score 11 points – as long as they win by at least 2 points.
If the other team has a score of 10, a score of 11 won’t win the game and play will continue until one team has a 2-point advantage.
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An easy way to keep track of pickleball scoring
Pickleball scoring is pretty simple, but things can quickly get confusing on the court.
There will inevitably come a time when somebody forgets to call the score or not everybody is in agreement about the current score.
When this happens, here is an easy trick to keep in mind.
A team’s score will always be even when the players are on the side of the court they started on. It doesn’t matter whether they are serving or not – this always works because players only switch side when they score a point!
If any confusion does arise, make sure you keep your call and stick to good pickleball etiquette rules.
If you keep these pickleball scoring rules in mind, there should never be any room for confusion. Figuring out how to score pickleball can be tricky when you first start playing, but it’s actually fairly straightforward!