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Pickleball Rally Scoring: How It Works & Why To Try It In Your Next Game!

Pickleball has long used a scoring approach called “sideout” scoring. But starting in 2022 there was a push to use a new approach based on rally scoring. 

In sideout scoring, only the serving player or team can score points. With rally scoring, any team or player that wins a rally will score a point. 

Some believe rally scoring will change the integrity of pickleball for the worse, while others believe rally scoring is the tweak needed to take pickleball to the next level.

Let’s take a look at pickleball rally scoring, how it works, and why it's a fun alternative to try in your next rec. game.

What Is Rally Scoring In Pickleball?

Simply put, pickleball rally scoring allows you to score a point by winning any rally. This differs from “sideout” scoring, where a player must be serving to score a point. In rally scoring, games are typically played to 21 and a team must be serving to win a point once their score reaches 20. The other main difference with sideout scoring is that in doubles pickleball, each player stays on the same side (left or right) of the pickleball court throughout the game.

Although rally scoring is a new concept to pickleball, it has been used in other sports (like tennis and racquetball) for decades. 

Where side-out scoring requires a team to be serving to win a point on the scorecard, rally scoring allows any player or team to score if they win a rally (i.e., point).

The question of who’s serving is no longer relevant to scoring points (think about a game of ping pong, you can earn points on your serve or on your returns).

Pickleball rally scoring makes games feel more fast-paced, since points accumulate more rapidly as the teams or players race to 15 or 21 points.

How To Rally Score In Pickleball

Here’s how rally scoring works in pickleball doubles (singles works the same way!):

  • Most games are played to 21, win by 2, with the teams changing ends of the court when 1 team reaches 11 points.
  • A team is chosen to serve first (rock paper scissors, flip a coin, etc).
  • Each player on each team chooses a side of the court, either the left side or right side. The players remain on these sides of the court for the entire game (but they can switch on the 11 point changeover).
  • The serving team begins serving with the player on the right-side serving first. The player serves crosscourt to the opposing team.
  • The serving team continues serving as long as they win each rally (where they earn a point with each rally won). The serve alternates between the right-side player and the left-side player.
Keep in mind the players do not switch sides of the court when serving, each player stays on either the left side or the right side of the court. For example, if the serving team wins the first point of the match, the score is 1-0 and the serve alternates to the player on the left (Ad) side of the court. There is no 3rd number in rally scoring (e.g., 2-0-1) like there is in sideout scoring.
  • Once the returning team wins a rally, they win a point and it is their turn to serve.
  • One nuance of rally scoring is that which player serves is dependent on the score of the serving team. If a team’s score is 0 or an even number like 2 or 12, the team will serve from the right side of the court. If a team’s score is an odd number, the player on the left side of the court will serve. For example, if the score is 2-0 and the returning team wins a rally, the score is now 1-2 and the team that returned the last rally will now serve from the left side of the court (since their score of 1 is an odd number).
  • The game continues with points being scored and the serve changing sides until 1 team reaches 11 points. When this happens the teams switch ends of the court. Note that in In Major League Pickleball games, players can switch sides (from the left side to the right side and vice versa) after a timeout or when the teams change ends of the court.


There are 2 changes to the above that occur late in the game: 

  • After a team reaches 20 points, that team can only score a point when serving (so if they win a rally as the returning team with a score of 20, they do not score a point but they do get to serve from the right side of the court with a chance to score a point and win the game). The other team can continue scoring points while serving or receiving serve until they reach 18 points.
  • Once one team reaches 20 points and the other reaches 18 points, both teams must be serving to win a point. So if the serving team leads 20-18 and the returning team wins the rally, the returning team will now serve from the right side of the court with the score 18-20.

To summarize, pickleball rally scoring games are played to 21 (sometimes 15), points can be scored by the serving or returning team, players stay on one side (left or right) of the court and do not rotate sides.

And when a team reaches 20 points they can only score points when serving (similarly, when 1 team has 20 points and the other 18 or more, points can only be won by either team on their serve).

Rally Scoring vs Sideout Scoring: Key Differences

Here’s a summary of the key differences between sideout scoring and rally scoring in pickleball:

Sideout Scoring

Rally Scoring

Games Played to

11 (or 15), win by 2

21 (or 15), win by 2

Points can be Scored

Only when serving

When serving or returning

Doubles Scoring

3 numbers are used, e.g., 2-1-2 means your team is ahead 2 to 1 and the 2nd server is serving

2 numbers used, 11-13 means your team trails 11-13

At the Start of a Service Turn

Teams start serving from the right side on their service turn.

If a team’s score is 0 or even, they start their service turn from the right side. If their score is odd, they start from the left side.  

Number of Serves on a Turn

Each player gets a chance to serve on their team’s service turn. 

A team may only get 1 chance to serve on their turn (if they lose the 1st point on their serve the serve goes over to the other team)

Player Placement

Players rotate sides of the court as long as they are winning points on their serve

Players stay on the same side (left or right) of the court throughout the game. When a team is serving, the ball rotates between the left and right side of the court (so players alternate serving).

Used By

Most tournaments and rec. games

Major League Pickleball


The standard scoring method in pickleball

Easier to understand and leads to faster-paced scoring games

Rally Scoring in Pickleball: FAQs

Where Did Rally Scoring Come From?

Rally scoring is an established concept in many sports. Volleyball, badminton, squash, ping pong, and even tennis implement some form of rally scoring. Pickleball is one of the few racket-like sports not currently using rally scoring. 

Major League Pickleball (MLP) started the rally scoring trend in pickleball by implementing a form of rally scoring successfully into MLP events. 

Is Rally Scoring In Pickleball The Same For Singles And Doubles?

Yes - rally scoring is the same for singles or doubles pickleball. 

Which Side Do You Serve From In Pickleball Rally Scoring?

If the score is 0 or an even number, you serve from the even side (right side) of the court, but if the score is an odd number, you serve from the odd side (left side). Also, in doubles, players do not switch sides when serving (they stay on the same side of the court throughout the game).

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