Pickleball Tournament Format & Rules – A Complete Guide

Pickleball is played in which the ball is first hit with an underhand throw starting from the right side of the field, the ball is thrown diagonally into the opponent's service zone. Then, the team will win the match if they score eleven points and lead by at least 2 points. To play this game, many of them have done special training to get into a pickleball tournament. So, what is known about tournament pickleball?

Pickleball Tournament Format & Rules - A Complete Guide

2 Types of Pickleball Tournaments

Sanctioned Tournaments

This type of pickleball tournament is commonly referred to as a sanctioned tournament approved by the USAPA or even other regulatory bodies. In addition, this tournament must follow the official pickleball rules and regulations that have been determined by the USAPA and other regulatory bodies. An approved Pickleball tournament will usually have more participants than an unsanctioned tournament because the approved tournament is more popular. Interestingly, this type of pickleball tournament often offers prize money but there are also more competitive players.

Unsanctioned Tournaments

Besides the pickleball tournament types above, there is an unsanctioned tournament. This type is the unsanctioned type which is not approved by any regulatory body. These may or may not have their own set of rules and regulations. This type of tournament may be more relaxed and it doesn’t have a penny prize money. This type is a great way to get involved in the Pickleball community and join other players.

Pickleball Tournament Categories

There are several pickleball tournament categories based on gender. The Pickleball tournament category is divided into 4 with different specifications, including:

Male Player (Singles and Doubles)

To conduct a pickleball tournament, in the male gender there are 2 categories that are allowed, namely singles and doubles. When playing doubles this is done by 2 men with 2 male opponents. While singles also apply the same.

Female Player (Singles and Doubles)

In the female gender, there are 2 categories that are allowed, namely singles and doubles. Pickleball tournaments in the doubles category, required fellow women and their partners are also women. This also applies to the singles category that is required by fellow women.

Male and Female Players (Mixed – Doubles)

Unlike the 2 categories above, this mixed category is played in pairs with one male and one female. This game also applies to opponents playing tournament pickleball games.

Player Classification (Age and Skill Level)

In this player classification, players are divided into 3 classifications. Such as Age, Skill level, and Age/Skill Bracket.

Classification of Players by Age – Simply put, pickleball is played with players of the same age, this applies to both singles and doubles. Then they will compete with each other.

Classification of Players Based on Skill Level – This pickleball game is based on the players of your skill level and your opponent’s. When the skill level of you / your team and your opponent is the same, you can start competing.

Classification of Players Based on Age/Skill Bracket – This is a combination of the two classifications above, this also applies to singles and doubles matches. The difference lies in that if you and your opponent have the same skills and age, then you/your team, and your opponent can compete.

Pickleball rules for the doubles Pickleball tournament

The younger age will decide which age bracket they can compete in. For example, if there is a 19-year-old player with a 50-year-old player then the doubles team will play in the 19+ age division. Similar to skill level, the higher skill will control what skill level can be played in a double team. For example, if players are 5.0 with 3.5 then this doubles team is playing in the 5.0+ division.

The 4 Pickleball Tournament Formats

The pickleball tournament format has different ways. Below we provide an in-depth explanation of the 4 pickleball tournament formats.

Single-elimination Pickleball Tournament Formats

pickleball single elimination

This format can be used when competing in pickleball tournaments with consolation brackets. The trick is that when you/your team loses then you will fall into the consolation bracket, this means that you will continue to play until you/your team lose for the second time. The best way you/your team can get out of the entertainment bracket is bronze or third place. In addition, only the remaining players/teams from the winning bracket will play for the final championship and earn gold/silver.

Double-elimination Pickleball Tournament Formats

pickleball double elimination

In this tournament pickleball format, it is used if you/your team loses and you will fall into the consolation bracket where you/your team continue to play until you/your team loses a second time. In this double tournament, you/your team know the opponents from the consolation bracket can fight fiercely to win the championship. This is because the player/team that wins in the consolation bracket will go up against the winner of the bracket. The winner of this entertainment bracket can beat the winner of the bracket winner twice to win gold or first place.

Round Robin

pickleball round robin

The Pickleball tournament format called Round-Robin is a tournament where you/your team and your opponent play against each other. Then, the two were selected based on the record from winning to losing. However, if both draw then the calculation will be decided on a head-to-head match. If it is still a draw then the calculation stops with the difference in points. If it is still a tie then the calculation is calculated based on the head-to-head point difference decision. Then, if it is still a tie the final tiebreaker is the result based on the difference in points against the next highest team.

Pool Play

This tournament uses pool plays, which are treated as round robin. In addition, in this tournament, each player/team will play against each other in the playing pool. Then, based on the results of this tournament, the winning team is in the single-elimination or double-elimination group.

Pickleball Tournament Scoring

In the scoring options tournament, there are a few things you need to pay attention to. When playing, scoring points is done by the team serving. Pickleball is usually played with 11 points with a 2-win. Then, this game may go up to 15 or 21, with a 1 win. When your team’s score or the opponent’s serve is even (0,2,4,6,8,10) you or the opponent who is the first server will be on the right or even court when serving or receiving when an odd number (1,3,5,7,9) you or your opponent is on the left or odd court when serving or receiving the ball.

What are the Pickleball Tournament Rules?

In general, pickleball tournaments are best played as doubles or singles games. The area and rules for playing this pickleball tournament use the same for singles and doubles. Then what about the other tournament pickleball rules? Here for you:

Read more:

Pickleball Rules Doubles Clarified: Rules You Must Know!’

Pickleball Rules Singles You Should Know!”

The Serve

To ensure a fair and competitive match, service and end selection rules must be followed in any pickleball tournament. These rules are intended to provide both players with an equal opportunity to win the game and to prevent one player from having an unfair advantage. Before playing, you need to decide who will serve first before playing and at which end of the court will play. In addition, you can decide to serve, receive, take sides, or delay during this pickleball match. The game is decided by a coin toss, the player who calms this coin toss will be able to choose to serve or receive, or can postpone the decision.

In general, to ensure justice is through ‘rotation’. The point is that the rotation can be clockwise or counterclockwise. But every player who plays will rotate to play from every position on the field. Pickleball players can use a variety of rotation patterns, but the most common is the “two-up, two-down” system. Players in this system rotate positions after every two points. If Player A serves the first point, they will play the second point from the right side of the court, however, if Player B wins the second point, then for the third point, they will serve from the left side of the court (or “deuce court”). This pattern will continue until one of the players has won 4 points, at which point the player can choose which end of the court to play for the next game. The “two-over, two-under” system is just one example of the tournament pickleball service rules and final pick that you can use in play. In addition, there are “one-over, one-down” and “straight” systems, although there are many systems the goal remains the same which is to ensure each player has an equal chance to serve and play at the end of the pickleball court.

Referee Responsibilities & Referee removing

pickleball referee responsibilities

In this referee responsibilities, there are several rules that you need to know before a pickleball tournament, including:

You/your team must track the score, which will be included in the points after each point, and track you or your opponent who will serve next.
You/your team need to pay attention to the gameplay of the opponent and ensure that every player has followed the rules made. If it violates, the referee will give a violation and give points to the team that does not violate it.
Referees also need to make decisions on rigged points. This occurs when one of the players feels that points should be awarded while they can appeal to the referee for a final decision.
In addition, the referee is responsible for enforcing the penalties seen during the match. This is like issuing a warning card or removing a player from a tournament.
Referees also ensure that a fair pickleball match will be more enjoyable by upholding all the responsibilities assigned.

A Referee shall be removed from the match if all the players and the tournament director agree to petition.

Time Out

These pickleball tournament rules are a useful strategy during pickleball games. However, of course, some rules must be followed. Each playing team is only allowed one time-out per game, this is the first rule. Then, a time-out can only be done when the ball is not in play. Also, players must call them on the field. The time-out lasts just 60 seconds, and each team has one time-out per game. When a team uses its time out, that team cannot call another team for the rest of the match.

In addition to the rules above, there are other important things you need to know. That is, you as a player must use Time out to a minimum. This prevents the interruption of the pickleball match and this will cost you when playing with your opponents. Time out can also be a great opportunity to regroup and start strategizing with your partner, but remember not to use it as a break.


Remember that the ball may only bounce once per side. When you hit the ball, you must travel to the other side of the pickleball net. Also, when the ball has hit one of the baseline lines, it marks it as a playable ball. Then, if one of the players/teams fails to win the rally, it can be considered a mistake. However, some rules not can cause faults, such as the following:

  • The ball was served into the wrong area.
  • The ball was knocked out of bounds.
  • Volleying the ball without allowing it to bounce once on each side.
  • Hit the ball into the net with your paddle or your body.
  • Hitting the ball before it is allowed to bounce while in the non-volley zone.
  • Attempting to hit a volley while touching the non-volley zone with your paddle or clothes.
  • Following through by stepping on or over the non-volley zone line.
  • When you try to hit the ball, you miss it.
  • The server swings the paddle to hit the ball but fails to do so.

Pickleball Court Resignations and Withdrawals

When you or your partner has to withdraw from a tournament due to injury or illness you need to notify your opponent and the tournament coach immediately. However, you or your drawn partner will lose the tournament. Then, players who will play do not appear immediately during the tournament, they will automatically lose. If you are more than 10 minutes late it will also automatically lose the first game. The downside is that you lose one point for every minute you’re late, a maximum of two games.

When you or your partner has to withdraw from the tournament only once, you will lose all their matches. Then, you or your partner who is disqualified from the match also loses the tournament. This error occurs for several reasons, such as being unsportsmanlike or not following the rules. Losing this match could be disappointing to end a tournament. But keep in mind that there are rules that ensure fairness for all pickleball players. You can help to ensure that everyone has a positive experience on the pickleball court by following the rules and being respectful of your opponents.

Technical Warning Rules

In the pickleball tournament rules, this one is a verbal warning to you by the referee about a violation of the rules of behavior. Here, no point needs to be made regarding the technical warning rules. In addition, this technical violation is a violation of behavior or rules that goes up to the level of deducting points from your team’s score or the offending opponent’s score. Then, this technical violation will be given to the offending team who will receive a technical warning. Technical warnings or technical violations do not affect changes from the server or side-outs made by pickleball players.

There are examples of actions that can result in technical warnings, such as inappropriate language shown to others, and others that take the form of profanity in hand gestures. The aggressive debate can disrupt the pace of pickleball tournaments. There is pickleball abuse, excessive questions, or prompts that can also disrupt the pace of the tournament, some being late during the tournament. Incorrect medical time-out, having a player defy the referee’s decision and lose the challenge for the rest of the break, and have also received coaching at any time, other than between tournaments or during time-outs.

Final Thought

We know that in pickleball tournaments there are various rules. When you start to like and get serious about this game to go to tournaments, then you need to understand what the pickleball tournament rules are. Properly understanding the rules above will also benefit you in winning the pickleball tournament.

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