Pickleball is a fun and easy sport to learn, and it can be played by people of all ages. The rules of the game state that it can be played in either singles or doubles with two or four players, respectively. The game starts with one player serving the ball over the net to the other player or team on the other side of the net.
While a standard pickleball game is played one-on-one, it is possible to play this sport with three players. Each player will take turns serving and winning points against the other two players in this format. It is not a very common format, but it’s gaining popularity to allow any number of players to enjoy the sport.
If you follow the above rules, you can play a game of pickleball with any odd number of players. Even in tennis, three players can play a game; although it’s not professional, it is still a widely recognized format. When tennis is played with three players, it is called American Singles.
Pickleball has a three-player variation, but this format has yet to acquire an official name. Some people have given it the name Cutthroat, while others call it Australian Doubles, but these names are not widespread.
Nevertheless, let’s find out how it is played and what rules you must follow to make it an enjoyable game for everyone.
How to Play Pickleball With 3 Players?
There are two variations to pickleball when three players want to play the game. In the first variation, each player gets a chance to serve and then tries to score a point. The other two players stand across from the serving player as his opponents.
One difference with the standard two-player game is that, in the three-player format, the server gets two service turns instead of one. When this player has scored an even number of points, he will serve from the right side. And when a score is an odd number, he will serve from the left side of the court.
Read more about serving here: Is it Better to Serve First in Pickleball?
Before the next serve, the serving player will call his own score first and then his opponent’s score on the left side. And in the last, he will call out the player’s score on the right side. After the turn is over, the players will rotate so that the previous server is now on the left-hand side of the court.
If you want to play pickleball with three players using variation #1, you must remember that it will be very difficult to score a point since a single player plays against two players. Either one of the players on the opposite side of the net can easily return the serve.
In the second variation of this format, all the rules of variation #1 apply except that the returning team can only return the ball to the half of the court where the server is standing. This makes the game easier for the serving player since he doesn’t have a partner. This variation feels exactly like a doubles game and gives the server a lot of opportunities to practice his dinks and lobs.
Rules of Cutthroat Pickleball
When three players are playing pickleball, the solo player determines the boundary of his side of the court, and any hit that goes outside this boundary is considered out of bounds. However, the solo player is allowed to hit within the normal boundaries of the court. The players must rotate clockwise when the serving player’s turn is over.
The serving player has to keep track of his points because serving is the only way a player can score in pickleball. This format is no different from where this rule is concerned. Your goal as a player in this game should be to get back to the serving side as soon as possible and start scoring again.
The player who first makes 11 points wins. Cutthroat pickleball can be played with beginners as well as advanced players since all players get equal opportunities to have a skilled partner or play solo and use their opponents’ weaknesses against them. This is actually a great way to polish your skills at playing pickleball.
Which Pickleball Variation to Pick?
The three-player pickleball format is a great way to practice your drills. Since you have a different opponent every couple of points, you can determine their strengths and weaknesses and score points accordingly.
Both variations of the three-player pickleball format are practical since all players get turns to serve and score points. However, if you think one or two players participating in the game will not be able to move quickly and score points, you can choose the second variation.
In the first variation, the solo player can only use forehands, backhands, and volleys. So, in this case, point scoring is very challenging. If one of the players is not as fit and agile as the others, the other players will not be able to enjoy it as much.
On the other hand, the second variation gives the solo player a chance to use all his shots, including dinking and lobbying, which makes scoring points so much easier. So, this version is best when all players are not of equal athletic standards.
Can You Play Pickleball with 6 Players?
Yes, you can. When you have 6 players waiting to play a game but only one court available, you can start a game with 3 players on each team. In this format, one player from each team always stands in the kitchen.
The third player in the kitchen waits for a point to be scored. When this happens, he comes onto the court to serve next. The previous server goes to the kitchen and waits until the next point is scored.
Read more about the kitchen here: What is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
This format is not very popular, but it’s equally entertaining. Everyone gets a chance to serve, score points, and play as a team, which is a great way to up your game.