Free Shipping Over $50*


Your Cart is Empty

How to Score Pickleball: General Score Keeping Rules

by Pickleball Superstore January 11, 2024

A pickleball player prepares to serve the ball.

Whether you’re an aspiring player or simply want to understand what’s happening on the court, knowing how to score pickleball is important.

Keeping score in pickleball isn’t the only reason to play, of course. From the physical activity to the opportunity to play with friends and meet new people, pickleball is about more than scores, winning, and losing. Pickleball is still a game at its heart, though, and keeping score is a foundational part of most games.

Wondering how pickleball scoring works? You’re in the right place! Keep reading to learn about the pickleball scoring system and much more.

Need some gear before you step on the court? Check out our extensive collection of pickleball paddles. Looking for a place to play? Use our court locator to find a place to play pickleball near you!

How to Score Pickleball: The Basics

Here’s one key fact about the pickleball scoring system that can help to clear up confusion later on. Only the serving team or individual can score in pickleball.

That means the person or team who hits the ball across the net at the start of each point (“point” meaning each round of play within a game, as opposed to a point on the scoreboard). This method of keeping score is called side-out scoring.

That’s an important difference from most other popular racket and paddle sports, like tennis and badminton. In those sports, both sides can score. That scoring system is called rally scoring.

Just to be clear, outside of games with experimental or non-standard rules, there is currently no rally scoring in pickleball. Some DUPR events and Major League Pickleball (MLP) use rally scoring however, so it it becoming a bit more prevelent.

So, how does the other person or team, i.e. the receiving player or team, score in pickleball?

For singles play, you gain control of the serve and earn the opportunity to score by winning a point.

in doubles pickleball play, winning one point as the receiving team means the second player on the other team will serve. Winning a second point, whether consecutively or not, will bring the serving duties and the opportunity to score to the other side of the net.

The only exception is that, at the beginning of each game, the serving team starts with their second player. Once the receiving team wins one point, the serve moves to their side.

Four players in the midst of a pickleball doubles game

Pickleball Game Scores: How Do You Tally Scores and Win in Pickleball?

While side-out scoring is less common overall in racket sports, tallying the actual score in pickleball is pretty simple.

Whenever the serving team or individual wins a point, their score increases by one. In standard pickleball games, both singles players and doubles teams play to 11.

The only major wrinkle in standard pickleball scoring rules is that a player or team must win by two. So, a score of 11-10 isn’t enough to secure the win.

In this situation, the player or team with the lead would need to earn another point before their opponents can do so to end the game. Otherwise, the game continues until one side has a two-score advantage. Even if a game is played to a score besides 11 (tournament games are sometimes played to 15 or 21, as the sport’s governing body USA Pickleball points out), the win-by-two rule is a constant.

The first person or team to achieve that feat wins the game. The winner of a standard pickleball match (a set of three games) is the first person or team to win two games.

Calling the Score in Pickleball

A key rule in pickleball is the requirement to announce the game score before each serve.

In games including a referee, this duty falls to the official. When it’s just two or four players on the court, the serving player announces the score, Pickleball Insights explains. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Keeping track of the score is foundational to finishing each game and match.
  2. The receiving player or team can call a fault on an opponent for failing to announce the correct score.

So, how is a pickleball score correctly announced?

In singles play, the score consists of two numbers. The first is the server’s score, and the second is the receiver’s score. If the serving player has 7 points and the receiver has 4, the score would be announced and written as 7-4.

In doubles play, the score includes three numbers. The first is the server’s score, the second is the receiver’s score, and the third is the number of the server about to hit the ball (either 1 or 2).

This helps to keep track of who has the serve as well as the score. If the second server is up and the game has the same 7-to-4 score as our first example, the correct announcement is 7-4-2.

Pickleball Superstore: Your One-Stop Shop

At Pickleball Superstore, we’re building a community around the game we all love. You’ll find the best paddles, shoes, and gear, all at competitive prices.

Learn more about the origins of pickleball here.

Pickleball Superstore
Pickleball Superstore