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Can You Play Pickleball With 3 Players? – Here’s How

Can You Play Pickleball With 3 Players
Written by Alex

Stuck in a three-way pickleball tango because your friend “Tim” decided to ditch your party at the last minute leaving a sour taste in your mouth which also means your pickleball party is no longer coherent enough to carry out a proper session.

Well, in that case, no need to wait on such “party poopers”, because what if I told you that you could still carry out your session whilst attaining an equal amount of thrill?

Now you must be pondering, hold on, Can you play pickleball with 3 players? That sounds too good to be true, almost like a fever dream. In that case, I would highly indulge you scroll down below to know more about it,

Playing With 3 Players In Pickleball

There is more than one way you could kickstart your Pickleball trio, here is how,

1. The Free-For-All

Often known as Australian cutthroat, in this format you might be teaming up with a player as well are playing against a player but at the same time, every player is playing for themselves.

The scoring system is independent of each player, which means any player from the trio that reaches the 11-point mark with a 2-point lead wins the match.

Australian cutthroat is a great way to play pickleball in trio format without feeling handicapped since each player plays for themselves so pretty you can play in both offensive and defensive manner.

As for serving, each side gets two chances to serve to cover both players and once a point gets scored, every player has to rotate so they get to play in both backhand and forehand fashion.

The Major Advantage of playing in Australian cutthroat is that you can sharpen your skills and play in every possible scenario all during the same session.

2. 2 Vs 1 Handicap

In this mode, two players get teamed up against a loner which means the two players have to hit the forehand side of the player on the other end.

However, the loner can hit cross-court without any form of restrictions, the catch here However is that the single player has to cover all the area by themselves, which means, nobody would be there to cover your flank when you are near the net playing aggressively.

The scoring system in this mode is usually done in a traditional manner just like the one that is carried in the doubles format, however, there are some custom rules that could make the game more lenient towards the player’s playing alone.

One of the best part about this format is you could indulge in this format if you are planning to train for big leagues or tournaments since it is an amazing way to train your skills and become proficient at this sport as you are left with more grounds to cover which in turns sharpens your skills corresponding to footwork and your serves.

3. Rotating Doubles

This mode is similar to the Australian cutthroat but instead of the “each paddle for itself mentality” you share your teammate with the other team. This mode is solely restricted for recreational purposes as the scoring system is often relaxed and both teams are balanced once a point is scored as partners are supposed to rotate clockwise.

Rotating doubles can also be seen to mimic a round-robin strategy and you can do it with or without your teammates.

The best part about this format is that it is not just restricted to three players at once as you use the same strategy even if you are teaming in groups of 3,4,6 or 8.

However, as the number of players changes so does the scoring system, players can increase or decrease the maximum number of maximum in order to win the game so everyone can play it at once.

Things To Keep In Mind When Playing In Trio Format

Just because a player has left you, intentionally or unintentionally doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be having fun, here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind though,

1. Keep It Friendly

It’s perfectly understandable that playing in drills where you are playing alone versus duos could be overwhelming as you have to cover more ground and stay more defensive. 

In that case, you are going to shed more calories and even lose your temperament, however, since pickleball is all about maintaining your composure, it’s in your best interest that you keep things friendly and only play it for recreational purposes even if you lose a million times.

Try to keep in mind that playing in trios implies that you are going to sharpen your skills allowing you to prepare for more competitive sessions in other words you are going to take it as a silver lining.

2. Use Proper Gestures

There might be instances where you will be teaming up with “temporary teammates” and often strategies such as pickleball stacking, which means there is a higher probability you won’t understand their play style due to lack of communication.

In that case, it’s best that you practice and use a couple of gestures that are easy to understand and comprehend by everyone. Make sure you also perform “callouts” to prevent confusion and lessen the chances of toxicity.

Keep in mind this will not only help you build synergy but will also keep the flow of the session as seamless as possible, otherwise there will be plenty of confusion, especially in the scoring system.

3. Don’t Be A TryHard

Trios are supposed to be fun and not the other way around, so don’t be too hard on yourself and your teammates, everyone on the court is there to have fun, so it’s pretty much pointless to “one up” over your teammates that are just there to enjoy and sharpen their reaction times and hand-eye coordination.

In other words, if you notice that your teammates aren’t really doing well, make sure you are lenient and share tips and tricks and even coach them by reinforcing their confidence.

Can You Play Pickleball With 3 Players? – Bottom Line

Ditch the doubles dogma and hope on the trios bandwagon, trust me if you are seeking out the best possible experience, playing pickleball in such crazy formats can not only be a thrilling experience but also a chaotic mayhem that will keep you on your toes, just make sure you maintain your composure.

Some of these formats are extremely fun to partake in, especially if implemented properly, I assure you that you will fall in love with this sport again.

About the author


Hello, I'm Alex, and welcome to PicklerSpot – your ultimate resource for all things pickleball! I've curated this blog to share my 5 years of expertise and tips to enhance your pickleball skills.

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