How to play pickleball with 3 players

How To Play Pickleball With 3 Players – Comprehensive Guide

Attention, pickleball enthusiasts and seekers of unparalleled excitement! Prepare yourselves for a brand-new twist on the court that will ignite your competitive spirit like never before. 

However, what happens when you only have three players and need help to form a standard doubles team? Fear not! 

In three-player pickleball, use a rotating “phantom” player who alternates between the two teams, ensuring non-stop action while following the game’s standard rules.

This piece will delve into the exciting world of Cutthroat Pickleball – a variation perfect for three players.

We’ll also cover other variations for larger groups and how to play alone. 

So grab your paddle, and let’s start on how to play pickleball with 3 players!

How To Play Pickleball With 3 Players – Strategies For Three Players

Playing pickleball with three players can be challenging, but there are strategies that you can use to make the game more enjoyable. 

  • One of the most popular ways to play pickleball with three players is the “cutthroat” style, where two players compete against one player.
  • To start playing cutthroat, all three players stand on opposite sides of the court. 
  • The player competing alone serves first and continues until they lose a point.
  • At that point, the other two players switch places and take turns serving.
  • As an alone player in cutthroat pickleball, it’s essential to stay focused and not get too intimidated by having two opponents. 
  • Try to aim your shots toward the weaker opponent while also watching for openings to hit winners.
  • Communication is vital if you’re playing as part of the team facing off against one opponent in cutthroat style pickleball. 
  • Work together to cover more ground on defense and attack from different angles on offense.
  • Another strategy for playing with three people is rotating every few points so that each person can play singles and doubles. 
  • This helps keep things fair and allows everyone to practice their skills in different scenarios.

Playing pickleball with 3 players may require some adjustments, but it’s still just as fun!

Rules of Cutthroat Pickleball

Cutthroat Pickleball is a unique game variation that allows three players to compete against each other. 

The game’s objective is to score points by hitting the ball over the net and landing it within the court boundaries. However, Cutthroat Pickleball has some different rules compared to traditional pickleball.
The game begins with one player serving from their right-hand side, and all players must remain in their designated areas until they hit or return a shot. 

The point system remains unchanged, but each player takes turns serving consecutively instead of rotating after every point.
One important rule in Cutthroat Pickleball is that only two players can score points at any given time. This means that if one player wins a point, they will rotate out while the other two continue playing until another point is won.
Another critical difference between Cutthroat and standard pickleball rules involves how faults are called. 

In this variation, any fault committed by any player results in an immediate loss of serve for that person.
Cutthroat Pickleball adds an exciting twist to classic games with its unique set of rules. It requires more strategic thinking and communication among teammates since you’re only sometimes working together as you would be in doubles play.

Which Pickleball Variation to Pick?

When it comes to playing pickleball with three players, you have several variations to choose from. 

  • The first option is Cutthroat Pickleball, which we discussed in the previous section. Another popular variation for three players is Skinny Singles. 
  • In this version, two players play on one side of the court while the third player plays on the other.
  • Alternatively, you can try Round Robin Play where each player takes turns rotating through a single position and playing with different partners throughout the game. 
  • This variation ensures that everyone gets equal playing time and provides an opportunity for socializing and teamwork among teammates.
  • If you’re looking for a more competitive format, consider Playing King of the Court or Challenge Courts where players compete against each other to become the reigning champion until they are defeated by another challenger.

Ultimately, choosing which pickleball variation to pick depends on your individual preferences as well as those of your fellow players. Experimenting with different formats may help you discover new ways to enjoy this exciting sport!

What If You Have More Than 4 Pickleball Players?

If you have more than four players, playing doubles is not an option. Instead, you can consider playing a variation of pickleball that allows for more players.

Round Robin:

One popular variation is called “Round Robin” or “King/Queen of the Court.” In this version, each player takes turns rotating through every position on the court while partnering with different players. The game typically lasts until one player reaches a predetermined number of points or time limit.

Triple Pickleball: 

Another option is to play triples pickleball. This involves three players on each team and follows similar rules to doubles pickleball but with some slight modifications. For example, the serving rotation changes after every point instead of every game.
Ultimately, it’s up to your group to decide which variation works best for your number of players and skill level. Just make sure everyone agrees on the rules before starting the game!

Can You Play Pickleball with 6 Players?

Pickleball can be played with multiple variations, including 3-player and even 12-player pickleball. But what about playing with six players? The answer is yes!

Canadian Doubles: 

Playing pickleball with six players involves dividing the court into two halves and having three players on each side. 

This variation is also known as “Canadian Doubles” or “British Doubles.” Each team has one player in the frontcourt near the net, called the “up” player, and two players in the backcourt, called the “down” players.

The rules of play are similar to regular doubles, except that each team only gets one serve per turn instead of two. The serving order also rotates after every point won by either side.
This variation can add an extra level of challenge and excitement to your typical game of pickleball. 

It requires more communication between teammates since there are more people on each side of the court. Plus, it’s a great way to get more people involved in this fun and fast-paced sport!
So next time you have six people itching to play some pickleball, give Canadian or British doubles a try!

12-Player Pickleball Rules & Way of Play

Although pickleball is typically played with two or four players, it’s possible to play with larger groups. For example, 12-player pickleball can be a fun and challenging way to enjoy the game.

To play 12-player pickleball, you’ll need three courts set up side by side. Each court will have four players, for a total of 12. The game starts with one team serving from the first court. 

After each point is scored, the winning player stays on the same court while their partner moves over to the next court in order.
This means that if a team wins on Court One, they move over to Court Two and compete against new opponents while staying together as partners. If they win again on Court Two, they’ll move over to Court Three for their final match of the round.
The goal of this type of gameplay is simple: rack up as many points as possible across all three rounds in order to come out victorious at the end!

You Can Play Pickleball Alone Too

Pickleball is a social sport generally played by two or more players. However, did you know it’s also possible to play pickleball alone? Sometimes referred to as “solo pickleball,” this game variation can be as fun and rewarding as playing with others.

Solo Pickleball: 

You only need a wall and a ball to play solo pickleball. Find a flat surface, such as the side of a building or garage door, mark your court lines, and begin hitting against the wall. 

The goal is to keep the ball in play for as long as possible using various shots like forehands, backhands, volleys, and overhead smashes.
Playing alone can improve your skills by allowing you to focus on specific aspects of your game without distractions from other players. 

It’s an excellent way to practice footwork, agility drills, shot accuracy, and control while getting cardio exercise simultaneously.
Another advantage of playing solo pickleball is that it allows you to get some much-needed exercise when no partners are available for games due to scheduling conflicts or a lack of interest among friends.
While playing alone may not offer quite the same level of excitement as playing with others, it provides an opportunity for those who love pickleball but don’t have access to regular partners nearby.

So why not try solo Pickleball today? You might find yourself enjoying it more than expected!


Playing pickleball with 3 players offers a fun and challenging experience. Strategies involve communication, teamwork, and utilizing open spaces on the court. Cutthroat Pickleball is an exciting variation for three players. 

Other options include six-player pickleball or solo play. Regardless of the game style, prioritize enjoyment and embrace thrilling matches. Get your paddles ready for some fun!


Can pickleball be played with three people per side?

No, pickleball is typically played with two people per side.

How many players can play pickleball?

Pickleball can be played with 2 or 4 players. Also, it can be played by multiple players like 6,12, etc.

What is cut-throat pickleball?

Cut-throat pickleball is a variation of the game where three players compete against each other instead of playing in teams of two.

How do you play pickleball step by step?

To play pickleball: set up the court, serve diagonally, return after one bounce, score points on faults, switch sides, win at 11 points with a two-point lead, and have fun!

What is a fault in pickleball?

In pickleball, a fault refers to an error or violation of the rules resulting in a point loss. It can include hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to clear the net, stepping into the non-volley zone while volleying, or committing other rule infractions.

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