Pickleball Scoring Basics: The Ultimate Scoring Guide

Beginners may get mixed up with the scoring system in pickleball. Even non-beginners get confused, too, because there’s a lot to remember from the rules.

Usually, they are the position changes during service; those who score during a rally or call the score before service puzzles them. 

Honestly, it’s quite a handful to memorize all of it even after playing for some time. That’s why in this article, I will make the scoring system more understandable. 

We’ll tackle the basics and also the scoring system for both doubles and singles. 

Basics In Pickleball Scoring 

pickleball scoring

A player or team needs to score 11 points with a two-point difference for a regular or casual game to win. 

So if the score is a tie, even if the score is 10-10, the player who gets 11 does not win. The player needs to score at least 12 points to make the two-point difference to win the game. 

Meanwhile, pickleball tournaments play up to 15 or 21 points to determine the winner. The same two-point difference still applies, though.

A team can only earn points if they are serving. To score a point as a serving team, you need to hit an ace. 

If not, you can score a point when the receiving team commits a fault. But if the serving team commits a fault, the receiving team will not receive a score; however, the server loses the service chance. 

During a doubles game, the second server takes the turn to serve. But if server two commits a fault, the other team gets the service which is also a side-out.

Related Reading: Rules for singles pickleball – Check Them out Here

Doubles Scoring

Let’s start with the scoring system for the doubles game since it is the standard pickleball game. Also, the rules for singles are almost the same, with a few differences only. 

Once you understand the basics of doubles, you’ll learn the singles scoring better.

First, the person from the right side of the service team always takes the first serve, even if it is the first service of a game or your turn after a side-out. 

Always remember that the player on the right side plays the first serve. 

When the serving team gets the point, the players within the serving team switch sides. So the person on the left side moves the right side and vice versa. 

As long as the serving team scores during their turn, they’ll keep on switching sides. Meanwhile, the receiving side will not change position even when the serving team scores.

Proper Score Calling

Proper Score Calling

During a doubles game, the serving team calls the score using three numbers like 4-3-1. Now, why are there three numbers when there are only two teams in a game?

The first number in the example, which is 4, is the score of the serving team. Keep in mind that if you’re serving, always call your score first. 

Meanwhile, the second number, which is 3, is the score of the receiving team. Considering that you already mentioned your score, keeping this in mind will be easier. 

Now for the last number in the sequence, 1 is the server’s position in the team. If you’re the first server, you’ll call 1. On the other hand, if you’re the second server, you will say 2.

It sounds easy and straightforward, but some parts of it are still confusing for some. 

To prevent unfair advantage to the first serving team, only one player can serve during the game and receive a fault. Then it will be a side-out. 

The serving team loses the service chance to the opponent, so the other team becomes the serving team. 

After this team commits a fault and ends the service streak, the following service turns allow both players to serve. 

Because of that, you need to call two even if you are the first server of the game. It is in case you need to turn the service to the opposite team. 

The number is an indicator of when the service needs to switch. 

Rather than a number to identify if you’re the first or second server, it is more of a signal to let the players know the next turn after two will switch the service to the opponent. 

For Example

Player A and Player B are in the same team and are the first serving team. Player A serves first since he is in the right hand of the court. 

So before taking a shot, he calls the score 4-3-1. When the receiving team commits a fault, Player A and B’s team get the point to switch positions. 

Right now, Player A still is in service but on the left side of the court. After a rally with the other team, Player A and B got a fault. 

The players will not switch sides. But now, it is Player B’s turn to serve from the right side of the court. 

The score became 5-3-2, but they didn’t get the point from serving. When the service turns to the opponent’s team, Player A and B should stay in their respective places: Player A on the left and Player B on the right. 

During the other team’s turn, there were few rallies between the two groups. Now, it is Player A and B’s turn to do service again. Since Player B is on the right side, he does the service first. 

Player B will call the score “5-5-1” during his turn. Before this turn, Player B was still on the left side, but when they switched sides, he moved on the right side and became the first server. 

Singles Scoring

We know that a game of pickleball needs 11 points to win for regular games while 15 or 21 for tournaments with 2 points difference. Also, a team can only get scores during their turn as a server. 

We also break down the different serving rules like how players serve first if they are on the right side and players within the team switch sides after each point.  

Additionally, the doubles game also explained that you don’t switch sides with your teammate from the receiving side. 

And the most vital detail is that when you call the score, you start first with your score, the other team’s score, and your server position. 

I mentioned that knowing most of the scoring system from the doubles will help you understand the singles scoring system better. 

Let’s identify how the two types of pickleball games differ in scoring. 

During a singles game, the player serves from the right-hand court if their score is an even number—for example, 0, 2, 4, 8, and more. 

However, if their score is odd, like 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and so on, the player serves from the left side. 

If you’re on the receiving end, position yourself diagonally from the server. 

Since there’s only one player per side during a singles game, there’s no need to include the server number during the calling of the score. The player can sequence the serving player’s score and then the receiver’s.

For example, the server’s score is “6” while the receiver is “3,” so it will be “6-3.”

That’s it! All the other rules are similar for doubles and singles scoring.

How To Catch Up With The Scoring And Serving Position?

How To Catch Up With The Scoring And Serving Position

A helpful tip you can take away from this article is in this segment. Since the scoring and serving position can be a little confusing to memorize while you’re in the game, you can use it to catch up.

Begin with your team’s starting positions and who is the diagonal player positioned from the other side. 

As long as you know your position at the start of the game, you can quickly determine if the score is odd or even just by familiarizing your places. 

A rally can leave you tired and confused, but through this technique, you’ll remember your side of the court from the start. 

When you’re on the right-hand side of the court during the beginning of the game, the score is always an even number every time you’re back on the right side. 

The same thing applies when you start on the left side. The score will always be odd when you start from the left.

Remember that even in pickleball, zero is an even number. So at the beginning, where you’re on the right side with no points, note that zero is even.

So, after all the scoring system explanations, this one tip makes a huge difference when calling the score. 

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