How to Play Pickleball with 3 Players

How to Play Pickleball with 3 Players

Pickleball has gained tremendous popularity over the years, captivating players of all ages with its unique blend of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Typically played with two teams of two players each, but the question arise here is that can we play pickleball with 3 players if yes then how to play pickleball with 3 players.

The short answer is yes you can play pickleball with 3 players, but most often pickleball is played in singles(two players) or doubles(four players).

In this blog post, we will explore how can we play pickleball with three players and discover the dynamic gameplay it offers.

What is Cutthroat Pickleball/Australian Doubles?

Pickleball is usually played with either two or four players on a court divided by a net. However, if you have three players and still want to enjoy a game of pickleball, you can play a variation called “Cutthroat Pickleball or Australian Doubles.”

Cutthroat Pickleball is a modified version of the game that involves three players instead of the usual two or four. In this variation, two players compete against one another while the third player rotates and competes against both opponents. The goal of the game remains the same: to score points by hitting the ball over the net and making it difficult for your opponents to return it.

How to Play Pickleball with 3 Players?

How to Play Pickleball with 3 Players

Playing pickleball with three players is quite straightforward once you understand the rules. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to play:


Start by setting up the pickleball court as you would for a regular game. The court is divided into two sides by a net, with a non-volley zone (also known as the “kitchen”) near the net on both sides. Each player should have a paddle and a pickleball.


Designate one player as the “rotating” player. The rotating player will start the game as the server and will alternate between playing on the side of one opponent and then the other. The other two players will be the “opponents.”


The rotating player starts the game by serving the pickleball diagonally to the opponent who is ready to receive. The serve must be hit underhand and should land in the diagonal service court on the opposite side. The serve must clear the non-volley zone and land inside the opponent’s court.


Once the serve is in play, the game proceeds much like regular pickleball. The rotating player and one of the opponents play as a team against the other opponent. The rotating player can hit the ball to either opponent’s side, while the opponents can only hit the ball to the rotating player.


In Cutthroat Pickleball, only the rotating player can score points. The rotating player earns a point when either opponent fails to return the ball successfully. However, if both opponents successfully return the ball, the rotating player loses a point.

Rotation Change:

After every two serves by the rotating player, the opponents will rotate. The player who served twice becomes the rotating player, while the rotating player becomes one of the opponents. The other opponent remains in the same position. This rotation ensures fairness and gives everyone a chance to play from different positions.


The game continues until one player reaches a predetermined score, typically 11 or 15 points. The first player to reach that score wins the game.

Playing pickleball with three players in the Cutthroat style can be a fantastic way to enjoy the game when you don’t have an even number of players. It adds a unique dynamic and challenges players to adapt their strategies when playing against different opponents. So gather your friends, grab your paddles, and get ready to have a blast with Cutthroat Pickleball!

We have also covered some of the best pickleball paddles to take your game to next level, you can check them here.

What are the best Pickleball drills for 3 players?

Practicing drills is a great way to improve your skills and enhance your performance in pickleball. While most drills are designed for two or four players, there are specific drills that work well for three players as well. In this section, we’ll explore some effective drills that you can try with three people to enhance your pickleball abilities.

Two-On-One Drill:

This drill focuses on the rotating player’s ability to defend against two opponents while also testing the opponents’ teamwork. One opponent plays at the net (up close to the non-volley zone) while the other opponent stays back near the baseline. The rotating player will hit shots to either side, challenging both opponents to work together to return the ball effectively. This drill helps improve the rotating player’s defensive skills and the opponents’ communication and coordination.

Rotate and Rally Drill:

This drill is designed to improve all players’ footwork, court coverage, and adaptability. Start with one player positioned at the net on one side, another player at the baseline on the opposite side, and the third player as the rotating player. The rotating player starts the rally by hitting the ball to one of the opponents. After a few shots, the players rotate positions in a clockwise direction. The rotating player moves to the net, the net player moves to the baseline, and the baseline player becomes the rotating player. This drill helps enhance movement and shot selection for all players involved.

Non-Volley Zone Drill:

The non-volley zone (or “kitchen”) is a critical area in pickleball, and this drill focuses on improving players’ skills around this zone. Assign one player as the rotating player, while the other two players take their positions at the net on opposite sides. The rotating player hits shots that force the net players to volley from the non-volley zone. The goal is to practice controlled shots and quick reactions in this challenging area of the court.

Serve and Return Drill:

This drill hones the serving and return skills of all players. One player starts as the server, while the other two players stand on the receiving side. The server serves to one of the receivers, and they engage in a rally. The rotating player then becomes the server for the next round, and the players rotate their positions after every few serves. This drill allows all players to practice serving, returning, and adapting to different serving styles.

Target Practice Drill:

This drill aims to improve accuracy and shot placement. Set up targets on both sides of the court, such as cones or hula hoops. Each player takes turns as the rotating player and tries to hit shots to specific targets. The other two players act as opponents, focusing on returning the shots while the rotating player aims for the targets. This drill enhances precision and control in shot placement.

Remember, while practicing these drills, it’s essential to focus on technique, communication, and teamwork. Pay attention to footwork, body positioning, and shot selection. Regularly rotating positions ensures that everyone gets an opportunity to work on different aspects of the game.

By incorporating these drills into your pickleball training sessions, you’ll develop a well-rounded set of skills and improve your overall gameplay. So gather your pickleball buddies, grab your paddles, and get ready to elevate your game with these three-player drills!

Can we play pickleball with 6 players?

Yes we can play this fast paced game with 6 players.

The Six-player teams is ideal for hosting a lively event or mixer in pickleball.

  • Divide the players into two teams, each consisting of six members.
  • Appoint a team captain responsible for making rapid substitutions during the game.
  • Designate specific players on each team to start as offense and defense.
  • At the beginning of the game, Team 1 sends two offensive players onto the court, while Team 2 sends two defensive players.
  • Team 1 serves and plays until they lose the rally or side out.
  • Once a side out occurs, four new offense/defense players from both teams rush into the game, replacing the previous players.
  • The game continues with rapid substitutions, with players entering and exiting the game after each side out.
  • Play continues until a team reaches a total of 11 points.
  • Each offensive player can only earn a maximum of two points. Once they achieve their two offensive points, they are out of the game.
  • This rule ensures that every team member has the opportunity to contribute points to their team’s score.
  • The first team to reach 11 points wins the game.

Please note that the information provided above was adapted from the official website of the USA Pickleball Association


In summary, we have discovered that pickleball can be played with different numbers of players, like 3 or even 6. Whether it’s a small group or a larger one, pickleball can adapt to accommodate everyone. Avatar

Leave a Reply

Liyana Parker

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.