How to Play Pickleball - Palms-O-Aces

How to Play Pickleball

A Fun-Filled Guide to Get You Out on the Court

Whether you're a beginner or looking to refine your skills, this article will guide you through the rules, serving, scoring and winning strategies of pickleball. Get ready to have a ball (or should we say a pickleball?) and unleash your inner champion!

The Rules: Embrace the Pickleball Playbook

Pickleball may sound like a peculiar name, but its rules are pretty straightforward. Picture a miniature tennis court, a paddle instead of a racket, and a wiffle ball that's ready to bounce! Here's a quick rundown of the basic rules:

  1. Serve it Up with Style: To initiate the game, start by serving diagonally from the right-hand side of the court. Make sure your serve clears the no-volley zone (the seven-foot area adjacent to the net). Oh, and remember, underhand serves are the cool (and only) way to go in pickleball!
  1. The Two-Bounce Rule: When the ball is served, each team must allow it to bounce once on their side before returning. After the initial bounces, the ball can be volleyed or hit on the fly.
  1. Watch Your Step (No Volley Zone): The no-volley zone, also known lovingly as the kitchen, is a place where you can't volley the ball directly from the air. You can only enter this zone to play the ball if it bounces in it first. This rule keeps the game lively and ensures a fair play for all.
  1. Scoring: Points and Pizzazz! Pickleball scoring is as enjoyable as the game itself, no trickiness like in tennis. The first team to reach 11 points with a lead of at least two points wins the game. That’s it!


Serving: 0-0-2, Say What?

Some claim the hardest part of pickleball is remembering the score, which is why it’s good form to say the score prior sending the ball across the net. Points can only be won when serving, and you want to win that game, right? Let’s delve into the specifics of serving, scoring, and court positioning in pickleball, highlighting the differences between singles and doubles play.

Singles Scoring and Serving:

  • Serving:
    • The initial serve is always executed from the right side when the server's score is even and from the left side when the server's score is odd.
    • The server continues serving until they lose a rally by committing a fault.
  • Scoring:
    • Points are only scored on the server's side, and the receiver cannot score a point.
    • The server's score determines the serving position, not the receiver's score.
    • The server's score dictates the serving side, with the right side (even court) for even scores and the left side (odd court) for odd scores.
    • The receiver lines up on the right or left side of the court based on the server's score.

Doubles Scoring and Serving:

  • Serving:
    • The first server starts the game from the right side (even court) and serves diagonally to the opposite court.
    • If the serving team wins a point, the server moves to the left side (odd court) and serves to the opposite court.
    • Players on the serving team alternate sides after scoring points, moving from right to left or left to right.
    • The serving team retains the same server until they lose a rally by committing a fault.
  • Scoring:
    • Points are scored only by the serving team, and the receiving side cannot score a point.
    • The score is called as three numbers: server score, receiver score, and the server number (1 or 2) for doubles.
    • The proper sequence for calling the score is: server score, receiver score, and server number (for doubles only).
    • At the beginning of a match, the first team to serve, only serves once.* The score is called as "zero-zero-two" to indicate the first server's turn.
    • When the second server loses the serve, it goes to the opposing team, and the player on the right serves first.
    • The server number (1 or 2) applies to that service turn only, and it changes when the team regains the serve.

Just a Bit More on Serving:

  • The serve must be performed behind the baseline and underhand only.
  • The server serves diagonally to the receiver's court and must clear the non-volley zone, line included.
  • The server only gets one shot to get the ball in play, this isn’t tennis!
  • After the serve, move forward and strategize based on the situation, seeking advantageous positions on the court.

*But that’s not fair, said in a whiny tone. Actually, quite the opposite. The rule that the first service team only serves once to start the game ensures equal opportunities for both teams. Granting one serve to the first team promotes fairness by preventing a potentially overwhelming early advantage. It prevents a team with a strong server from building an insurmountable lead, allowing their opponents to have a fair chance at making a comeback. Most rules in pickleball promote equality which making pickleball accessible and fun to play.  


Winning Strategies: Pickleball Magic Unleashed

Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to sharpen your skills and increase your chances of victory. Here are a few strategies to give you the upper hand:

  • Teamwork Triumphs: Communication and coordination with your partner are essential. Anticipate each other's moves, cover the court effectively, and confuse your opponents with your synchronicity. Remember, teamwork makes the pickleball dream work!
  • Dink it Up: Master the art of the dink—a soft and controlled shot that gently drops over the net. Dinking can be a game-changer, forcing your opponents out of their comfort zone and opening up opportunities for smashing winners!
  • The Spin Doctor: Add some spin to your serves to keep your opponents guessing. Side spin, backspin, or topspin—experiment and find what works best for you. Surprise is your ally!
  • Serve Up Confusion: Mix up your serves, incorporating both power and placement, to keep your opponents guessing. Also try aiming the serve deep into the opponent's court, close to the baseline, to reduce their attacking opportunities.


Congratulations, pickleball enthusiasts! Armed with the basic rules, serving and scoring knowledge as well as some winning tips, you’re ready to get on that court and turn up heat.  Remember to have fun, enjoy the game's unique blend of skill and strategy and embrace the joy of pickleball!



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