Whether you're an experienced tournament player or gearing up for your first event, our guide to tournament pickleball covers every facet of playing pickleball tournaments:
- 7 places to find tournaments
- How to register for tournaments
- How pickleball tournaments work - scoring, balls, format, how long they last, and more
- How to prepare for a tournament and the 6 factors that lead to tournament success
If you’re headed to a local event or the grandeur of the US Open and Pickleball Nationals, this guide will help you on your pickleball tournament journey!
How to Play Pickleball Tournaments - Ratings & Fees
Tens of thousands of people play pickleball tournaments each year, so playing in a tournament is relatively easy.
If this is your first tournament, the first step is to get (or at least know) your pickleball rating (e.g., 3.0, 3.5, 4.0). This will help you know which division to sign-up for.
If you have played a sanctioned USA Pickleball event, you will likely have a UTPR rating. Login to the USA Pickleball site to find yours.
If you have a DUPR profile it will usually have a rating as well. Check the DUPR site and login to your account or search by your name and location.
If you don’t have a rating, you can get one through a pickleball pro or you can self-rate your skills. We highlight everything you need to know about ratings here:
- Understanding Pickleball Skill Ratings: 1.0 to 5.0 Explained
- DUPR Ratings in 60 Seconds
- UTPR Ratings in 60 Seconds
Once your rating is set, all you need to do is find a tournament (and partner) and then register and pay any fees.
How to Find Pickleball Tournaments
Pickleball tournaments are sprouting up everywhere - from local tournaments at pickleball clubs and public courts to huge events like the US Open and Pickleball Nationals, there is no shortage of tourney options in every US region.
These sites will have the well-known amateur events as well as all amateur and pro events associated with the 2 pro main pickleball pro tours (the APP and the PPA).
For now the pro tours (APP and PPA) host amateur events alongside their pro events, so if you play these events you will see many pros walking around the grounds or playing on the same courts as the amateurs.
How to Find Pickleball Tournaments - Part 2
Some smaller pickleball tournaments may not show up on the larger tournament sites, so it’s good to periodically check for local tournaments by:
- Checking the websites of local pickleball clubs, which will host tournaments from time to time.
- Google “pickleball tournaments” and include your city, nearby cities, or state (e.g., pickleball tournaments Atlanta).
- Check local pickleball facebook groups and other social media platforms.
One important factor to keep in mind is that with pickleball’s popularity many tournaments sell-out shortly after registration opens.
If you want to play in a tournament, watch for the registration window and sign-up within the 1st 24 hours just to be safe.
How to Play in a Pickleball Tournament
Once you have found a tournament to play in, registering is usually straight-forward.
Just go to the tournament’s registration site (e.g., www.pickleballbrackets.com) and follow the steps to register.
For larger tournaments by USA Pickleball, the PPA, or the APP, you will need to have a USAPA membership before registering for the tournament.
Once you have a USAPA membership, you will be able to register and pay any fees for the actual tournament, at which point you'll officially be entered into the tournament.
How Do Pickleball Tournaments Work?
Most pickleball tournaments offer gender doubles as well as mixed doubles. Some tournaments also have singles brackets. Players are separated into divisions based on skill level. For example, a tournament will usually have a Women’s Doubles 4.0 division, which is open to any female player that is around a 4.0 skill level in pickleball. Teams/players for each division (e.g., 4.0) are placed into a bracket and then play one another to determine the winner.
Pickleball tournaments can vary in their rules, but generally speaking most tournaments have the following format:
Pickleball Tournament Rules
Almost all pickleball tournaments will follow USA Pickleball’s Official Rulebook.
The Rulebook is the exhaustive list of rules that govern every aspect of pickleball, including:
- Pickleball court and net specifications
- The kitchen or “non volley zone” rules
- The 2 or “double” bounce rule
- Rules around carrying, smashing, hitting underhand, and double-hitting the ball
- Equipment and apparel specifications
And everything in between!
Although all tournaments follow the basic rules of pickleball, they can differ on:
Since tournaments can vary in these key areas, it’s important to check the rules of any tournament you are going to play and use the info in your preparation!
How to Prepare for a Pickleball Tournament: Pro Tips
Would you go on a long hiking trip to Colorado or biking adventure to Italy without a plan to get in shape and prep everything you need to have a great trip?
Pickleball tournament success is no different - preparation is a key element to playing tournaments, and in our experience it is an under-rated and under-utilized factor in tournament success.
The image to the left has the 6 tips we’ve found to be critical success factors in pickleball tournaments - from drilling to what to pack checklists and scouting your opponent, these tips will give you a slight edge on the day of the tourney.
For more on tournament prep, from how and where to find a warm up court to a checklist of items to bring with you, see our Pro’s Guide to Preparing for a Pickleball Tournament.
FAQs: How to Play Pickleball Tournaments
How Many Games Do You Play in a Pickleball Tournament?
Pickleball tournaments vary in the number of games played in each match. Most tournaments are 2 out of 3 games to 11 in the main draw, with 1 game to 15 in the consolation or back draw. In addition, in most tournaments you are guaranteed to play at least 2 matches, so you’re assured of playing 3-4 actual games.
Where to Find Pickleball Tournaments?
The most common places to find pickleball tournaments are pickleballbrackets.com and the USA Pickleball website. These sites list smaller local tournaments and the largest amateur and pro pickleball tournaments. For local tournaments, try googling “pickleball tournaments” and your city, looking on the websites of local pickleball clubs, and watching out for tournaments on Facebook and Instagram.
How Does A Round Robin Pickleball Tournament Work?
In a round robin pickleball tournament, each player or team in a bracket plays every other player or team in the bracket. A winner is decided based on the best Win-Loss record of the group. For example, if there are 6 teams in a bracket, each team will play 5 matches (1 match each against the other teams in the bracket). The team with the best win-loss record will win gold, 2nd best will win silver, and 3rd best will win bronze. Tiebreakers are usually based on game or point differential (games won minus games lost or points won minus points lost), with the tie going to the team with the best differential.
Can Anyone Enter a Pickleball Tournament?
Yes - for the most part anyone can enter a pickleball tournament and traditionally spots in a tournament have been on a "first come first serve" basis.
However, there are a few exceptions worth noting:
- Some tournaments may require a certain rating to enter a specific division. For example, a pro tournament may require a rating of 5.0 or better.
- There are gender-only draws where only male or female players are allowed.
- Some pro tournaments (mainly Pro and Sr Pro) have qualifying draws, with lower-rated players playing in a draw to qualify for the main draw.
- Some tournaments require a USA Pickleball membership in order to register for the tournament.
Also, with pickleball tournaments becoming more popular, the larger tournaments (APP and PPA) are reserving the right to determine who gets into a bracket based on ratings, with higher-rated players having priority over lower-rated players regardless of when a player or team registered.
How Long Do Pickleball Tournaments Last?
Pickleball tournaments usually span 3-4 days, but at almost all tournaments a specific division or draw will be completed in 1 day. For example, if you play in the Men’s 4.5 division at a pickleball tournament, all of the matches for that division will be completed in 1 day. This makes pickleball tournaments very efficient to play in since you only need to be onsite for 1 day to play in and complete the entire tournament.