One of the more intimidating concepts for the new pickleball player when playing doubles is the pressure of keeping score. While games are generally played to 11 points (win by 2 points) there are nevertheless scoring nuances in pickleball. Although pickleball scoring is pretty straightforward in singles, it can be particularly confusing when playing doubles.
Pickleball Doubles Scoring – A Summary
- Points can only be scored by the serving team – the receiving team cannot score.
- Both players (server #1 and server #2) on the serving team will get a chance to serve and score points for their team before relinquishing the serve to the other team. The one exception to this occurs during the very first serving rotation of the game in which case only one player from the serving team (server #2) will get to serve before the other team earns the side-out.
- At the start of the game – and after any subsequent side-out – the player positioned on the right side of the court (even side) serves first.
- If the serving team wins the rally, a point is scored. The server then rotates with his/her partner and serves to the receiver in the opposite court.
- This same server keeps serving (and rotating with his/her partner) until the receiving team wins a rally – at which time the server’s partner will serve.
- If both players on the serving team have served – or if it’s after the first serving rotation of the game, then it’s a “side-out” and the team receiving serve will now become the serving team.
- After every side-out, the server number “resets,” with the person positioned on the right (even court) becoming server #1 and his/her partner who is positioned on the left becoming server #2. (Note: In the course of the game, a player can be server #1 or #2 – it simply depends on where her/she is positioned [given the score] at the side-out).
- Score is announced as 3 numbers.
5 Helpful Pickleball Scoring Tips When Playing Doubles
The following scoring tips will help you accurately keep score when playing doubles. By remembering these scoring tips, you will, no doubt, feel much more comfortable and confident on the pickleball court.
1. Points are only Scored Only on the Serve
The first thing to understand about pickleball scoring is that points are scored only on the serve. The receiving team cannot score. This applies to both singles and doubles. Obviously, while the serving team wants to win the rally to score points, the objective of the receiving team is to win the rally(s) and induce a “side-out” so they can serve and, ultimately, add to their score.
Rally scoring – while not widely popular – is the exception. In rally scoring, a point is scored on every rally, regardless of who has served. To the delight of most, rally scoring is not widely adopted and the pickleball community has overwhelmingly voiced their preference for traditional scoring over rally scoring!
2. The Player on the Right Always Serves First to Start the Game & After a Side-out
To negate the inherent advantage that the serving team has when serving first to start the game, only one player – the player on the right side of the court – gets to serve during the first service turn of the game. After this initial service turn, each subsequent service turn is comprised of serves by both players on the serving team – beginning with the player on the right side of the court.
3. Rotate with your Partner When You Win a Point on your Serve!
If the serving team wins the rally (thereby, scoring a point) – the server rotates sides (from right-to-left or left-to-right) with his/her partner and serves to the receiver in the opposite court. Each time a point is scored, the partners on the serving side alternate sides. The receiving side never alternates sides.
When a rally is lost when the first server is serving (with the exception of the first service turn of the game), the serve goes to the partner. When a rally is lost when the second server is serving, the serve reverts to the other team. When the serve reverts to the other team it’s called a “side-out.”
4. Announce 3 Numbers When Calling the Score
Pickleball doubles scores – as opposed to singles scores – are always comprised of three numbers, called out in the following order: (1) server’s score, (2) receiver’s score, and (3) the server number (either 1 for the first server or 2 for the second server). For example, if the serving team has tallied 5 points, the receiving team 4 points and the second of the two servers is serving, the score would be announced as “5-4-2.”
5. Why is the First Server Number 2 in Pickleball when Starting a Game?
0-0-2 starts the game! It may be extraordinarily confusing at first, but it’s important to note that the player number (the 3rd number) is typically announced as “2” in the very first service turn of the game – even though he/she is the first server! Remember, only one player – the player that started on the right side of the court – gets a service turn on the first service turn of the game. Prior to the very first rally of the game – before any points have been played – the score would be announced as “0-0-2.”
Although not “official,” many will call the score as 0-0-START to begin the game.
How Do You Remember Your Score in Pickleball?
After playing a long point – or simply because of the age demographics associated with pickleball 😉 – it can be easy to forget who is serving, to whom, and to which court. To minimize confusion it is generally effective to simply remember which player served first to begin the game for each side – and have that person wear a colorful wristband (or first-server band).
If the rotation is executed correctly, a team’s score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10) when that player (the one with the colorful wristband or first server band) is on the right side of the court and odd (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) when that player is on the left side of the court.
Keeping score seems intimidating – but, luckily, after playing several times it will become second nature. See you on the courts!
Ann Ferguson says
Is there a shut out in pickle ball?
Hi Ann, I guess we could call an 11-0 game a shut-out.
Who serves first in the second game? The team that lost the first game or do you alternate first serve?
The team that serves first in the second game is the team that received serve first in the first game.
Hello, If a server hits a clean serve and the receiver returns it but it hits the net and falls into the non volley zone. Is this a legal shot from the receiver or does it have to clear the net cleanly on the second shot as well as the serve?
Hi David, That is, indeed, a legal shot on the part of the receiver. The return-of-serve can land anywhere in the opponent’s court, including in their non-volley zone. Only the serve needs to clear the non-volley zone.
Delbra Woodard says
If the server forgets to call the score is it a fault?
Technically, yes. Rule #4.A.1 states “The entire score must be called before the server begins the service motion.”
Was there a rule prior to 2020 stating that a served ball hitting the center line between the two service courts was out? I have came across this a couple of different times in rec play were a person will argue that a serve that hits the center line is out.
The 2020 rules clearly states that any line hit in the service court is in.
6.A. A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.
No changes. The center line separating the odd court from the even court has always been “in” when serving.
I cannot find anything in the USAPA League Rules of what happens if the server forgets to call the score. Thank you.
Section 7 deals with “Fault” rules. Specifically, a fault will be declared for the following…
Thus going back to the service rules in section 4, 4.A.1 addresses this specifically:
Hope this helps.
The first server on the right misses. Does the first server pass the ball to the other side both opponents take their serve and then the ball goes to my partner. Is this correct?
Hi Evelyn, To start the game, the person on the right serves first. Assuming the server misses (commits a fault), it is a side-out and the other team will now serve. It’s worth noting that the team that was serving will not rotate positions — the server that committed the fault will still be on the right side. After the opponents both serve and it comes back to your team, the person on the right (the person who had originally committed the service fault) will serve first. Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that this person will have served twice before the partner (you) gets a chance to serve. Hope that helps!
When the serving team starts the match is the score 002 or 00start and if the receiving team faults after the serve and the server shifts to the other side for the next serve what is the score?
Hi Pete, 0-0-2 is the correct way to say the score when beginning the game. If the serving team wins a point (because the receiving team faulted), the score would then be 1-0-2. Hope that helps!
Megan Merkt says
Please do more tutorials on scoring. I still don’t get it.
Hi Megan, Scoring is certainly confusing — but, alas, once you understand it, it will even make a lot of sense!!! I promise.
Greetings and I hope this finds you well. Forgive this question but I would like to explain it to others. Why do you rotate back and forth as a server? Meaning you serve and score but rotate/swap places with your partner?
You rotate with your partner if you win a point on your serve so that the next serve is to the other person. This way you don’t serve to the same person two times in a row. Hope that helps!
ARTHUR KLEIN says
Stacking!!! I know what stacking is, but the confusion is alway with the stacking team on their serving position, because they never change sides right to left and left to right except to serve, but then return to their original position. How can the opponent monitor this? Is there an easy way? This why I like tennis, the serve alway starts on the right.
Stacking certainly makes it more challenging. In pickleball — even when stacking — the correct person needs to serve the ball and the correct person needs to return the serve. Just like if they weren’t stacking, when the score is even the person who started the game serving will physically be serving from the right side. Likewise, the person who started the game serving will physically be serving from the left side when their score is odd. https://www.pickleballmax.com/2021/06/pickleball-stacking/
Does that make sense? It can, indeed, be confusing. Hope that helps!
Danny Lew says
Awesome information on pickleball scoring.
Thanks, Danny. Glad it helped!
I just played my first game and yes, the scoring IS confusing. I believe you addressed it in an earlier post but to confirm, the person serving in the right-hand court is always number 1 when announcing the score (except on the first serve). And if that person loses the serve in that position, when the service comes back to their side, that same person will serve again because they are on the right side of the court? If they had rotated and the other person was serving, he/she would announce #1 in the score. In other words, the third number in the score represents the first or second sequence of services for that team and has nothing to do with WHO is serving. Am I correct? Hope I worded this without confusing the heck out of you!
Tim, You are absolutely right on! Hope you enjoy the game!!!
When the ball is served and obviously goes onto the wrong side of the court it is a fault. However if the server hits the receiving players partner the server gets the point? (Two rules are involved here.) If this is true the server could intentionally hit the receiver’s partner and get the point.
Hi Jake, Good question. If the pickleball server hits the receiving player’s partner (either intentionally or unintentionally), the serving team does, indeed, get a point. Here is a blog post I have previously written specifically about this scenario: https://www.pickleballmax.com/2017/09/pickleball-serve-hits-receivers-partner-before-bouncing/. Hope this helps!
Marcia Pratt says
When you are the first server you are number 2. Will you be number 2 for the whole game?
Hi Marcia, No you will not be number 2 for the entire game (unless you run the table and score 11 points in a row as the first server — or, in the very unlikely event, your team’s score is an odd number every time you and your partner earn a side-out). Sounds confusing, I know! To clarify, you will be “server 1” if you are on the right side when you and your partner earn a side-out (the person on the right always serves first after a side-out). Server numbers are assigned after every side-out. You are NOT assigned the same server number for the entire game. Hope this helps! Todd
Evan Meyer says
This does help! Also, this is the first that I have seen or heard this explanation. It is not in the rules above, and in the 5 or 6 times I have played and asked experienced players to explain it to me, no one has ever explained clearly how I know when I am server 1 and when I am server 2. (By the way, my wife, who plays tennis, says there is no equivalent rule in that sport.) I wonder, though, what the logic is for having to announce this to the other team. How does it help them to know which server is serving?
Hi Evan, There is a method to the madness. By announcing if you are server 1 or 2 before each serve, all players on the court will know what happens next. For example, if you call “server 1,” all players will know that the serving team continues serving after the rally — either the current server (#1) will serve again if you won the point — or the server’s partner (#2) will serve if you lost the rally. If you call “server 2,” all players will know that if the serving team loses the rally, there will be a side-out and the receiving team will now get a chance to serve and score points. Hope that helps!
Mike Williams says
Whenever I read rules on scoring, it is very clear which player serves on a side out. If the score is 0. 2, 4, 8, Etc, the person who served first to start the game serves. What about the receiving team? It is my understanding the receiving teams score determines the answer. If the score is even, the person who received first at the start of the game would receive the first serve on a side out. Is this correct?
Hi Mike. Regardless if you are the serving team or the receiving team, the person on your team that served first in the game will always be on the right side when your score is even — and on the left side when your score is odd. On any sideout, the person on the right starts the serving sequence. So again, on a sideout, that would be the person on your team that started serving in the game when you have 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 points. Scoring and proper positioning in pickleball can certainly be confusing. Hope that helps to clarify.
ARTHUR KLEIN says
Could you clarify the scoring in doubles? Your partner could be serving from the right at 1-0-2. So the even/odd does not necessarily apply in doubles?
Perhaps Rule #4.B.6.b. will help:
Hope that helps!
but I have read and also have been taught that when the serve is returned to your side the player on the right side will always serve first regardless whether your score at that time is odd or even. Please explain Thank you
Hi Noela, You are correct. After a side-out, the player on the right will always serve first. That may mean you — or it may mean your partner. It simply depends on how many points your team has after the side out. Let me attempt to clarify:
Let’s say you started the game serving for your team. This is the most critical thing to remember — who started serving the game for your team. Because you started serving, the score is 0-0-2. As such, your position will ALWAYS be on the even (right) side when your team has 0,2,4,6,8 or 10 points. And you will always be positioned on the odd (left) side when your team has 1,3,5,7 or 9 points. The opposite will be true for your partner who will be positioned on the odd (left) side when you have 0,2,4,6,8 or 10 points and on the even (right) side when your team has 1,3,5,7 or 9 points.
Now let’s take this logic and apply it to immediately after a side-out. After a side-out, when your team has an even number of points you will be the first server (as you are positioned on the right). Similarly, after a side-out, if your team has an odd number of points your partner will be the first server (who is now positioned on the right).
I know. It’s confusing. Hope this helps.
Dieter Bargel says
I’m standing behind the baseline, a ball is hit toward me, it clears the baseline on the fly without bouncing inside the court and hits my foot. The point was awarded to the opposite team. My understanding is: if the ball is hit out of bounds and hits the player, the point should be mine as soon as it crosses the baseline or sideline as it is then out of bounds. Is my understanding correct?
Hi Dieter, Unfortunately, in this instance, you are incorrect. This scenario is addressed in 7.F. of the rulebook where it states: “… If the ball strikes a player standing out of bounds before a fault has occurred, that player loses the rally…” In this case, because the ball never landed out of bounds (never bounced), your opponent wins the rally. Hope that helps!
Irene Myers says
My partner served the ball. It landed within the correct boundaries and the opponents missed the return. Prior to serving, however, my partner called out the score incorrectly. Thus, we lost the point and his serve was forfeited. I have played this game for more than four years and this has never happened. People often mess up when calling the score. Normally someone corrects them and we carry on. It was not a tournament just a ‘supposedly’ friendly game. We are seniors after all. What do you think?
Hi Irene, I agree with you on this one. Since this was not a tournament (and just a “friendly” game) I would have suggested to simply correct the score and continue. The game (and I admittedly have to be reminded from time-to-time) is intended to be fun! 🙂 See you on the courts!
I have been searching for days to find the answer to this question but have not seen it addressed anywhere. When playing doubles, I know the server must be behind the back court line but does his partner also need to ba behind the line or can they stand inside the court? Thanks!
The server’s partner can be positioned ANYWHERE. They typically position themselves slightly behind the line, however, because the serving team will have to let the ball bounce before they hit it out of the air. As such, the prudent position is just behind the line. But they can legally be positioned anywhere on the court, or even off the court. Hope that helps.
Everyone but the server can stand wherever they want. Some servers partners stand to the right of them on the serve and after serve the server change to the ad court [stacking]!
Just started playing a month ago. As a non athlete, it feels so good to be doing something fun, exhaustive and competitive…Love it!!! The scoring however is going to make me want to start to drink alcohol lol
Ha! Glad you’re enjoying pickleball! The scoring could be worse… as in love, 15, 30, 40, game… 🙂 See you on the courts!
That is easy and makes sense. The scoring is enough to make a person quit the game. WHY SO COMPLICATED?
Pickleball scoring definitely takes a bit of time to learn, but once you do it will become second-nature to you! Have fun!
Rolf Gollin says
I’m playing a mens doubles final in a tournament with a score keeper.
My opponent serves the ball, clearly out to the side.
I stop the ball with my paddle after 1 bounce.
Ref calls a point for my opponent since I did not let the ball pass me.
I can’t see this ruling in the book, please advise if it exists.
Hi Rolf. You are correct. According to Rule 6.C. of the International Federation of Pickleball, “a ball contacting the playing surface outside of the baseline or sideline… is considered out of bounds.” Further, Rule 7.B. states that “hitting the ball out of bounds” is a “fault.” Finally, Rule 8.B. states that “a ball is not declared dead until it has bounced twice or has violated one of the fault rules” found in section 7. In your case, the ball was clearly out-of-bounds — which resulted in a “fault” — and, because it violated one of the fault rules, the ball is considered dead. Hope this helps! Also, hope it didn’t negatively affect the outcome of the match!
Sylvia Fletcher says
I am an Ambassador for my county.
Excellent, Sylvia. Thanks for your efforts in growing pickleball in your area!