Pickleball (rally ball, tennis pong and pukaball) Variations
Note: Rally ball, etc., were actual names that the original founders considered calling it before settling on pickleball!
2 Player Game - “Skinny/Half Court Pickleball”
Played exactly the same as a normal game of singles except both players can only hit inside the half of the court their opponent was standing in when the serve was made! (Server always moves over) Serve from the right side when you have an even number of points and from the left side when you have an odd number of points.This is an excellent game for practicing doubles skills when you either have two players that can't run well, or you want to practice for doubles but only have two players.
Note 1: Some players prefer the option of having the server stay put and the receiving player returns the ball, then moves over and plays out the point in the server's side of the court.
Note 2: Another option is that each player would play from the court dictated by EACH of their scores (even right/odd left). In other words, no one has to move over after the serve. Occasionally the serve will be straight ahead versus cross court. This will mix it up with straight ahead (½ court) AND diagonal play!
2 Player Game - "King of the Dill!"
3 player rotation game (2 on the court at a time)
Skinny/Half Court Pickleball using "Note 2" rules above
Rally scoring - first to 11
2 players take the court to start. Play begins cross court. (Zero, zero = even/right side) Each player will announce their own score, server first. It will make sense later as the scores will change for 3 players. Also, it ensures players are on the correct (even/odd) side of the court.
Each player will stand to the right or left side based on their score before the serve. Zero, or even = right side. Odd = left side. Note: occasionally the serve will be straight ahead versus cross court.
The ball must remain in play in the respective players half court. Cross court or straight ahead, depending on the players score. Anywhere else is out.
Every rally will end with a point being earned by either the server or receiver. Rally scoring.
The 3rd player will then switch with the player that lost the rally. They will take the court and stand on the right (even) or left (odd) side based on their current score, not the score of the player they are replacing.
Again, each player will announce their own score, server first. The serve will always begin with the last rally winner.
Winner is the first player to score 11 points. They are now the , "King of the Dill!"
3 Player Game “Cut Throat” - variation #1
In this three player game, each single player will take turns serving and try to win points against the other two players. The server will serve from the right side when they have an even number of points and from the left side when they have an odd number of points.
Each player will keep their own score and have them announce it before serving.
After a player has finished their service turn, all players should rotate (clockwise) with the server going to the left hand return of serve position on the opposite court, and the player he replaces now taking the right hand return of serve position, and the remaining player now becomes the server on the opposite side of the court.
In this game, it is usually very difficult for the serving player to score points since they are playing against two players. Several of our players have used this variation and had a lot of fun, but these were players who were able to run fairly well. If you don't move well, or are primarily a doubles player, then the next variation should be more fun and better practice for you.
(Optional - Allow the server 2 service tries instead of 1.)
3 Player Game “Cut Throat” - variation #2
This three player game is played exactly like variation #1 above except that the returning team can only hit to the half of the court that the server has served from. This gives the serving player just as good a chance to win the point as if he/she had a partner. More importantly, it means that he/she can practice dinks and lobs just as they might in a regular game of doubles. This is the variation I like most because I'm primarily a doubles player and this lets me practice those skills. Note: It usually takes a little while for the returning team to remember they have to hit to the court where the server is!
(Optional - Allow the server 2 service tries instead of 1.)
4 Player Game “Let's Just Dink Around”
Played just like a normal doubles game but all players start at the kitchen line. The ball must remain in the kitchen for 4 bounces or it's a fault. After the 4th bounce, normal play resumes. It's helpful if all players call out the bounces so everyone knows when to resume normal play.
4 Player Game “Did it Drop or Not?”
Played just like a normal doubles game except the 3rd shot must land in the kitchen or it's a fault. If it drops in the kitchen, play out the point. If not, plays stops as if the ball landed out of bounds. This is a great drill for practicing the infamous 3rd shot drop.
5 Player Game “You're Out, I'm In” - variation #1
When only 5 players are present, instead of having someone sit out, these next several games are fun to play. The 5th person stands out of play and will rotate in the game replacing anyone of the 4 players who misses a shot or commits a fault (flub). If the missed shot is questionable as to who's error it was, the 5th player will just wait for an obvious miss/fault (flub).
(Optional - The 5th player will only rotate in when a player commits an unforced error, i.e., service fault, player hits the ball in the net or out of bounds.
5 Player Game “Follow the Server” - variation #2
The 5th person will always stand in the middle to the right/left side of the server. The server will serve the ball and quickly exit the court to the right/left and the 5th person will quickly step in and play out the point, win or lose. (server will always step out after serving) The person that steps out will now follow the next server, same side or opposite court. Note: only 4 people will actually be playing on the court during the game.
6 Player Game “5 plus 1”
Played the same as either 5 player game variation above EXCEPT each extra player remains with the same side/team. They rotate in/out in the same manner described above in variation #1 or #2. If your side is not serving, the extra person will be on a break if playing variation #2. Note: only 4 people will actually be playing on the court during the game.
7 Player Game - 7 players, 1 court
Played exactly the same as the 6 Player Game “5 plus 1”. The 7th player will swap out with whoever misses a shot or commits a fault (flub). (You're out, I'm in!)
I Won The Point, I'm out! What's Up With That?
This is a fun variation when you have 5 to 7 players. Whoever wins the point, takes a seat! The next person in rotation takes their place. It sounds crazy but it's fun! Give it a try.
Love it or hate it, Rally scoring speeds up the game when you have limited courts and lots of players waiting. Games are normally played to 15, win by 2 or first to 21. A point is awarded on every rally, not just to the serving side if they win the rally. Except at the start, each player will get a service try just like traditional server rotation.
PAR - Point-A-Rally Scoring
If you are REALLY adventurous, give the following rally scoring a try! No more calling out 3 numbers before serving. It's much simpler to keep track of the score and has the added benefit of speeding up the games. Most of the time anyway.
o Each side has only ONE service although both players on a team will serve at points throughout the game.
o At the beginning of the game and when the score is even, the server serves from the right
service court. When it is odd, the server serves from the left court.
o If the serving side wins a rally, the serving side scores a point and the same server serves again from the alternate service court.
o If the receiving side wins a rally, the receiving side scores a point (but receiving players do not
switch sides – see next bulleted point for clarification). The receiving side becomes the new
o The players do not change their respective service courts until they win a point when their side is serving. The service court is changed by the serving side (never the receiving side) and only when a point is scored. In all other cases, the players continue to stay in their respective service court from where they played the previous rally. This guarantees an alternate server.
o The order of server depends on whether the score is odd or even.
o Games are played to 15 points (win by two). If the game is not won (by two points) by the time
the score reaches 20-20, the first to reach 21 points wins (win by one).