How to Keep Score in Pickleball: A Guide for Beginners

Home » How to Play Pickleball » Keeping Score

Published on:

Updated on:

As with any other sport, understanding how to keep score is an important part of playing and enjoying pickleball. While it may seem complicated at first, keeping score in pickleball is intuitive and straightforward.

This guide aims to demystify pickleball scoring. After reading, you’ll understand how to keep score in singles and doubles pickleball, calling the score, and additional rules of pickleball.

How do you win a pickleball game?

In traditional side-out scoring, you win a game of pickleball by being the first player or team to score 11 points on their serve, with the requirement to win by two points. If the two sides are tied 10-10, play will continue until one side has a two point advantage.

For some tournaments, games may be played to 15, or even 21. The number of points required to win a game depends on the event and their specific guidelines. If you’re unsure of a tournament’s scoring system, consult with the event organizers before playing.

A full pickleball match is won when one team wins two out of three games. Most tournaments play with this full two-out-of-three pickleball match format. In recreational gameplay, teams typically only play one game at a time.

When do you score a point in pickleball? Side-out vs rally scoring

In pickleball, you score a point when the opposing team commits a fault. With traditional side-out scoring, if the opposing team commits a fault during your serve, you score a point. With rally scoring, you score a point no matter when the opposing team commits a fault.

Below are more details surrounding side-out vs rally scoring:

Side-out scoring

  1. Point Scoring:
    • Points can only be scored by the serving team.
    • The receiving team cannot score points; they can only win the right to serve by winning a rally, which is known as a “side-out.”
  2. Service Rotation:
    • Each player on the serving team has a chance to serve before a side-out occurs.
    • The first service rotation of the game starts with one player serving; after that, both players on a team serve consecutively until the serve is lost.
  3. Scoring Call:
    • The score is called with three numbers: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server number (either 1 or 2).
    • For example, a score of 5-3-2 indicates the serving team has 5 points, the receiving team has 3 points, and the second server is serving.
  4. Game Length:
    • Games are typically played to 11 points, and the winning team must win by at least 2 points​​.

Rally scoring

  1. Point Scoring:
    • Points are scored on every rally, regardless of which team served.
    • Both the serving and receiving teams can score points by winning a rally.
  2. Service Rotation:
    • There is no second server; after losing a rally, the serve immediately goes to the opposing team.
    • The serving team does not rotate sides after winning a point; instead, they serve from the left or right side based on whether their score is odd or even.
  3. Scoring Call:
    • The score is called with two numbers: the serving team’s score and the receiving team’s score, eliminating the third number used in traditional scoring.
    • For example, a score of 7-6 indicates the serving team has 7 points and the receiving team has 6 points.
  4. Game Length:
    • Rally scoring games are usually played to 15 or 21 points, with the winning team needing to win by at least 2 points.
    • Rally scoring games tend to be quicker, often ending about 20% faster than games using side-out scoring.

What are serving numbers in pickleball?

In pickleball, the serving numbers are used to keep track of the game score and the sequence of servers. Here is a breakdown of how these numbers work:

Doubles pickleball play

  • Score Calling: In doubles pickleball, the score is called out with three numbers: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server number (either 1 or 2). For example, if the serving team has 5 points, the receiving team has 4 points, and the first server is serving, the score would be announced as “5-4-1.”
  • First Server Exception: At the beginning of the game, only one player serves (starting on the right side) and is considered the second server. The initial score is called as “0-0-2” to indicate this.
  • Server Rotation: Each player on a team serves before the serve is turned over to the other team. The first server serves from the right side and alternates sides after each point won until they lose a rally. Then, the second server serves from their current position until they also lose a rally, leading to a side-out.

Singles pickleball play

  • Score Calling: In singles pickleball, the score is simpler, consisting of just two numbers: the server’s score and the receiver’s score. For instance, “3-5” means the server has 3 points and the receiver has 5 points.
  • Service Rotation: The server starts from the right side if their score is even and from the left side if their score is odd. They continue serving until they lose a rally, at which point a side-out occurs and the opponent serves.

General rules

  • Calling the Score: The server (or their partner in doubles) must call out the score before serving to ensure all players are aware of the current score and server number. This is a requirement in both singles and doubles play.
  • Winning Points: Points can only be scored by the serving team. The receiving team can only gain the right to serve but cannot score directly off a rally unless they win the serve back.

Frequently asked questions

Do you have to call a pickleball score out loud?

Yes, in pickleball, the server is required to call out the score aloud before serving. This rule ensures that all players are aware of the current score and can confirm the correct server and receiver positions. The server must announce the score clearly, stating their team’s score first, followed by the opposing team’s score, and the server number if playing doubles. Calling the score out loud helps maintain transparency and fairness during the game, reducing potential disputes or confusion about the score​​.

What happens if the wrong score is called in pickleball?

If the wrong score is called in pickleball, any player or the referee can stop play before the return of serve to correct it. If the error is identified after the return of serve, the rally continues, and the correct score is announced before the next serve. Stopping play incorrectly for a score correction results in a fault​​.

Which side of the court do you move to after a point is scored?

After a point is scored in pickleball, the server moves to the opposite side of the court from where they last served. If the server was on the right (even) side, they move to the left (odd) side, and vice versa. This alternating continues as long as the server’s team keeps scoring points​​.

Key takeaways

  • In pickleball, traditional side-out scoring requires a player or team to reach 11 points, winning by 2 points, to win a game.
  • Rally scoring allows points to be scored on every rally, regardless of which team served, typically played to 15 or 21 points.
  • A full pickleball match is won by the team that wins two out of three games.
  • Side-out scoring: only the serving team can score points, and both players on a team serve before a side-out occurs.
  • Rally scoring: points are scored on every rally, and there is no second server; the serve rotates immediately to the opposing team after a rally loss.
  • In doubles play, the score is called with three numbers: serving team’s score, receiving team’s score, and server number (1 or 2).
  • In singles play, the score consists of two numbers: the server’s score and the receiver’s score.
  • The server must call out the score before serving to ensure all players are aware of the current score and server number.
  • If the wrong score is called, play can be stopped before the return of serve to correct it; after the return, the rally continues and the correct score is announced afterward.
  • After scoring a point, the server moves to the opposite side of the court from where they last served, alternating sides after each point won.
Scroll to Top