How To Play Pickleball

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Playing pickleball might look confusing or intimidating, but it's actually quite straightforward once you understand the rules of pickleball. Wondering how to play pickleball? This blog offers up some basics to get you on the court, serving up fun.

Determining the Serve

  • Any fair way can be used to figure out which player or team gets to pick the side, serve, or receive first. A coin toss or paper, scissors, rock work well.

The Serve

  • The serving team starts on the northwest side of the court.
  • When the ball is hit, the server's arm must be moving in an upward arc.
  • The paddle must not touch the ball above the waist.
  • The head of the paddle must not be higher than the highest part of the wrist at the time of contact.
  • The serve is made diagonally across the court and must land in the opposite diagonal court.
  • Each server is only allowed one serve.
  • A "let" that lands "in"and not in the kitchen is playable.

The Serving Sequence

  • The first serve of each side-out comes from the right/even court.
  • Both players on the serving team will have the opportunity to serve and score points until they make a mistake on their side (except for the first serve sequence of each new game, when only the even server serves).
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and starts the next serve from the left/odd court.
  • As more points are scored, the server keeps switching until a mistake is made and the first server loses the serve.
  • One the initial point is lost, the first server's partner then serves from the other side, and the same steps are completed.
  • The second server keeps serving until their team makes a mistake and the other team gets the serve. This is called a side-out.

Two-Bounce Rule

  •  When the ball is served, the team that gets it must let it bounce before passing it back, and the team that serves must let the ball bounce before hitting it on the return. If someone hits it out of the air off these plays, it's a fault and the point is lost by whichever team messed up.

Line Calls

  • The ball is "in" if it touches any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve.
  • A serve that hits the NVZ kitchen line that says is short and a fault.

Non-Volley aka “The Kitchen”

  • Volleying is not allowed in the non-volley zone, also known as the "kitchen." It is a foul if a player's momentum takes them into the non-volley zone or if they touch it after hitting, even if the volleyed ball is already dead.
  • It is legal for a player to be in the non-volley zone at any time (for example, to hit a ball off the bounce) except when they are volleying.


  •  A fault is any move that breaks the rules or goes out. This stops the game. 


  • In most types of play, only the team that serves can score points.
  • Games are played to 11, win by 2.

These are the basic rules of pickleball and should help you and your friends or group figure out how to play pickleball. To learn more, check out our blog on how to play doubles pickleball, browse our pickleball glossary, or read our other helpful tips!

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