Beginner Tips: Pickleball Tournament Formats (Round Robin)

Tournaments in Pickleball come in a variety of different formats.

Some tournament directors prefer double-elimination format tournaments, while others would instead host pool play or round robin tournament format events.

There is no preferred format, and every tournament director has their preference.

A Pickleball round robin tournament is where organizers divide players or teams into different pools, with each player or team meeting every other one in a specific pool.

Generally, organizers rank players or teams in terms of their skill levels.

Organizers make pools up of higher-ranked, intermediate and lower-ranked players or teams in each pool, with those accumulating the most points winning the event or moving forward in the tournament while eliminating the other.

Pickleball Round Robin Formats

pickleball tournament
image: Michael & Sherry Martin/Flickr, CC 2.0

No player or team faces elimination until they have played all of their allotted round robin matches, and each plays the same number resulting in a league-type result after completing all matches.

Round robins come in several different formats, and we’ve listed three different ones to assist with ideas if you’re planning a tournament.

1. Club vs. club round robin tournaments

Club vs. club round robin Pickleball tournament formats are helpful when you’re looking to set up Pickleball practice tournaments in preparation for a league season while also becoming friendlier with other Pickleball players from nearby clubs in your area.

It will allow you and your other players a more structured form of play for practice purposes.

Club vs. club round robin creates a social environment with fewer matches for each player involved.

During these events, the most common scoring format is playing a single game to 15 points, with a win-by-one point differential for each match.

If there are six two-player teams from the two clubs involved and six Pickleball courts available, the tournament should finish in about two hours.

Each pickleball club should create two-person teams and rank them in lines.

The lines will be ranked from the most skillful team as line one through to the least experienced or capable team as line six, assuming there are 12 team members.

As these are non-official practice events, you should include all ages and genders in the lines based on skill levels alone, which will encourage the social aspect of the day.

Line one from one club will play every line from the other, as would line two through to line six, resulting in six matches each.

Alternatively, you could limit matches to the top three lines playing only the top three lines from the other club, with the bottom three lines doing likewise.

It all depends on how many teams there are and the time available.

The trick is to organize it so there are competitive matches and the occasion is enjoyed by all involved.

If you like, you could create your lines by pairing your top player with your bottom player in a line and scaling your teams to roughly equal ability in this manner.

You can gauge the winning club by adding the total points scored for all matches, allocating two points for each game win, or awarding a bonus point to the losing team in a closely contested match with a close point differential – the options are limitless.

Most players will happily play organized Pickleball with an evened-out skill level in a social and enjoyable setting.

Team sign-up round robin tournaments

You can arrange impromptu tournaments with round robin play by encouraging club members to sign up with a partner for a tournament in a week or even on the same day or the following one.

Depending on the time at your disposal, you could use a scoring format of playing one game to 11 points, with a win-by-one point differential, or you could play each game to 15 points if you have more time.

If six teams have entered and you have three Pickleball courts to use, the tournament would take about three hours if every team plays against the others in a proper round robin format.

Should an odd number of teams enter, each team would have a bye during a particular round, meaning they would have to sit out until the next round starts.

You would announce a winner based on the team with the most overall wins.

Should there be a tie, the team that fared best in the head-to-head match between those in the tie will take the prize.

An overall point differential can decide a three-way tie, so you should keep a record of the exact scores from every game.

If there is still a tie after calculating the overall point differential, you can use a head-to-head point differential between the tying teams.

Draw a partner round robin tournaments

You can also organize a draw-a-partner round robin session based, to a degree, on skill level.

Organizers determine the skill level of the entered participants and place the top-ranked names in one hat and the lower-ranked in another hat.

The organizer or another designated person draws a name from each hat to determine a two-person team.

This format is perfect for meeting new people and balancing the skill level of teams to make for competitive games and a social environment.

You can schedule as many rounds as time allows, but it’s better to get through a full round robin where each team plays every other one.

As such, it’s often better to play games to 11 points, with one point difference.

Should you have a large number of teams, you can set up two groups, with each team playing all the other teams in the same group.

Once these matches are complete and you’ve determined the final standings of each group, you can play a final with the top teams of each group playing head-to-head for the final prize.

Should you only have one group, you can work out the winning team in the same way we described in the team sign-up round robin tournament details.


What is the 10-second rule in a Pickleball tournament?

The 10-second rule is the time allowed for a player to take a serve.

After calling the score, a server has a 10-second window to serve before the official calls a fault.

How does a Pickleball round robin tournament work?

A round robin format means each team will play four or five games in the round robin stage, whether they win or lose.

A team might receive a bye at some point in the stage if there are an uneven number of teams.

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