Pickleball is a wildly fun and contagious sport, especially when you incorporate fun pickleball tournament ideas.
Its unique culture and close-knit community bring all the boys (and girls) to the court! The sport started gaining popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when people craved human connection. And it continues to gain traction even after the world reopened.
The welcoming, inclusive community of pickleball brought people from different backgrounds, athletic types, and generations together. Pickleball can be a way for former collegiate athletes and professionals to get their competitive fix. For others, it’s a great way to socialize and exercise.
But whether or not you’re a professional pickleball player or a beginner, one thing’s for certain: our fun pickleball games will make the sport that much more enjoyable.
Fun Pickleball Tournament Ideas to Spice Up Your Rec Play
While entering local or national tournaments is a great way to scratch that competitive itch, there are cheaper (and more fun) ways to get your friends together and play for high stakes. Try one of these pickleball tournament formats next time you get a group together. And then head to the tail end of our post for ideas on how to reward potential winners.
1. King (or Queen) of the Court
For this fun pickleball tournament idea, you’ll need at least twelve people and three courts to play this game. Follow the instructions below on how to run this pickleball tournament.
Step 1: Divide Your Group Into Pairs.
For random pairings, place pieces of paper with the players’ names on them into a container. One person draws the names for pairings. The first two players chosen are the “King or Queen” of the court and get to play on the “top court”. The next pair chosen plays the King or Queen doubles pairing. The two pairings drawn after that go to court 2, and so on and so forth.
Step 2: Set a Timer for Ten Minutes.
Each team plays a standard side-out doubles game for just ten minutes. The basic pickleball tournament rules apply.
Step 3: Keep Track of Your Individual Scores.
Once the timer goes off, the team with the most points moves up and the team with the lowest score moves down. Keep track of your individual scores. If you and your partner win the game, each player gets one point toward their individual score.
Say the King/Queen of the court pairing wins their game, they each receive two points. If they lose, they go down to court 2 and switch partners with the winner of court 3. The challengers (the team that beat the King/Queen become the new King/Queen).
Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3.
After an allotted time (most play for two hours), the individual with the highest score wins.
Here’s an example to help you visualize the format.
Remember, there should be a minimum of three courts. Let’s say:
- Court 1 has Team A (King/Queen) and Team B
- Court 2 has Team C and Team D
- Court 3 has Team E and Team F
First-round scores are as follows. I’ve highlighted the winning teams of each court for you:
- Team A – 8 points; Team B – 5 points
- Team C – 6 points; Team D – 4 points
- Team E – 7 points; Team F – 4 points
Since Team A (King/Queen of the court) won their game, they got two points each and got to stay on Court 1. The winner from Court 2 (Team C) gets a point each and keeps their pairing. They also move up to Court 1 and get to challenge the King/Queen in the next round for the title. The winner from Court 3 (Team E) also gets a point each as they move up to Court 2.
As for the losing teams, they don’t get any points. And they move down courts and switch teammates. So Team B will move down to Court 2. They then switch teammates with Team E, who won previously and just moved up from Court 3. Team D and F switch pairings on Court 3.
2. Play for Keeps
Incorporating money into a self-directed pickleball tournament ups the ante in this fun pickleball tournament idea. And for all of you sanctioned tournament players, it’s a great way to practice playing under pressure.
You’ll need at least twelve people and three courts to play this game. Everyone must bring 5 one-dollar bills. Here’s how to run a pickleball tournament with “Play For Keeps”.
Step 1: Randomly Select the Pairings and Assign Them to A Court.
You can draw lots to make things fair.
Step 2: Play a Standard Side-Out Doubles Game.
Use USAPA-approved pickleball rules. The only difference is you need to get to 11 points and win by just 1 point instead of 2.
Step 3: Losers Pay!
Once all courts have a team that scored 11 points, the losing team hands a one-dollar bill to the winning team.
Step 4: Mix up The Pairings and Start a New Game.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 to 4.
Do this until someone runs out of money. Winners get to walk away with the money they earned, while the player left with no money gets a pickleball party favor. I’ve rounded up some fun ideas for this reason, which you will get to read later on in this article. So, keep scrolling!
3. North vs. South / East vs. West
I am fortunate enough to live in Utah, where there is an abundance of players ranging from beginners to professionals. If you live in an area where you’ve got a lot of people to play with, split up teams based on where you live in this fun pickleball tournament idea.
For us, a group of 4.0 – 5.0 women from Salt Lake County could play against 4.0 – 5.0 women from Utah County.
Here are the mechanics for this fun pickleball game. You’ll need four courts, and each team should have at least eight players.
Step 1: Write the Names of Each Player on A Piece of Paper.
Randomly assign each player a number from 1 to 8. Make sure each player knows their number.
Step 2: Assign a Team Captain for Each Group.
The captains randomly assign each player a partner from their own team after each round.
Step 3: Assign a Number to Each Pair.
Once the doubles pairings are assigned, both captains write a list numbering each line 1 to 4 and assign a doubles pairing to each line.
Step 4: lineups Revealed.
The captains come together and reveal their lineup. The north side’s line “1” doubles team plays against the south side’s line “1” doubles team. And so on.
Step 5: Play to 11 Points.
During each match, the first doubles team to get to 11 on their respective court wins a point for their team.
Step 6: Keep Track of Scores.
Team captains are in charge of keeping their team’s overall score.
Step 7: Repeat Steps 3 to 5.
Do this until either the north side or south side gets an overall score of 12 points.
4. Pickleball Beer Pong
Bust out your favorite beer, grab your friends, and get your pickleball gear. This classic college party game just got better (because pickleball is involved, of course). This game is not only fun but great for practicing control, aim, and accuracy.
Each game can be played with a minimum of two players. We’ll use four for this example.
Here’s how you play:
Step 1: Prepare the Materials.
Grab six red solo cups. Fill them halfway with beer, then arrange them in a triangle formation on each side of a long table.
Step 2: Assign the first two players.
The first two players get to pick their partners. It’ll be just like playing doubles pickleball! The partners stand on their chosen end of the table.
Step 3: Determine Who Goes First.
You can do the classic, fan-favorite “rock, paper, scissors” to make things fair. Or simply flip a coin. Whatever works!
Step 4: Time to Shoot!
The team that won in Step 3 goes first. Each player takes turns shooting pickleball balls into the cups. Whenever a ball lands in a cup on their side, a person from the team has to drink what’s in the cup.
Step 5: Take Turns.
If a player misses, the service shifts to their teammate. If the teammate misses their shot, then it’s the next team’s turn.
Step 6: Drink Til You Drop.
Repeat the lineup of players attempting to shoot balls into the cups until one side of the table is cleared of beer.
Needless to say, the first team to hit their pickleball balls in all of the cups on the opposite side wins. Wanna make it more challenging? Use your paddles to shoot the balls into the cups.
What are Some Fun Pickleball Party Ideas?
If you’ve got enough people in your area, having a pickleball party on a quiet Saturday is a Saturday well-spent. But what makes for a buzz-worthy pickleball party? Check out these awesome pickleball party ideas.
1. Establish Unique Formats For a Fun Pickleball Tournament Idea
The majority of tournaments are set up in a standard bracket format with a consolation bracket for teams who get their first loss. But pickleball parties don’t have to follow that same format. You can choose some of the formats previously mentioned or try your hand at the following:
Round Robin Pickleball Format
Gather up all of the doubles teams (we’ll use 8 teams, 16 players for this example). Divide the teams into two “pools”. Each pool now has four teams. In each pool, teams are paired up for matches. All teams in the same pool get to play against each other once, totaling three matches.
Matches are played up to whatever score the tournament director chooses (or, in informal cases, the person coordinating the party). But just for reference, most round-robin pickleball games are played to 11 or 15 points.
After each match, record the results. The winning team gets two points, while the losing team gets 0 points. After all of the games are completed in the pool, tally up all of the points. The team with the highest score is the winner of that group.
Determine the top 4 teams and the bottom 4 teams. The top 4 teams will form a new pool, while the bottom 4 teams will form another. Teams in each new pool get to face each other in a final round for supremacy. The team with the most points wins the round-robin game!
Major League Pickleball Format
The Major League Pickleball (MLP) adopted a crowd-pleasing, television-worthy format that includes rally scoring to 21 points, winning by 2. Four games are played, with a dreambreaker singles game if there is a tie at 2-2.
The four games are played as follows: women’s doubles, men’s doubles, and two mixed doubles games. If the teams tie at the end of four games played, the dreambreaker singles game will decide the match.
According to Major League Pickleball, “In a Dreambreaker one person from each team plays singles against each other, switching every four points until someone gets to 21 and wins by two points.”
This pickleball tournament format is not only exciting to watch but also great to adopt for a pickleball party game. Gather eight players, divide them into two teams, and let the singles matches begin.
2. Dress Up Your Event with Pickleball Party Decorations
If you truly are a pickleball fan, then you have to try putting up pickleball party decorations! It could be for a special occasion like Halloween, a pickleballer’s birthday, or Valentine’s Day. You can totally plan your pickleball decorations around those.
Need some inspiration? Here are some pickleball party decorations that you can get to amp up your pickleball play.
No, these are not the approved eyewear for tournament play. But they are stylish enough to wear after pickleball games! Strut around in these glasses as you socialize with others and devour the night’s delicious food and drinks.
Is it someone’s birthday that you’re planning a pickleball celebration for? Hang up a pickleball theme banner to liven up the party. You can design it yourself to make it feel more personal and special.
Here’s a fun pickleball party idea: Dink and Drink. All you need is a group of friends, some pickleball equipment, and your favorite drinks to sip in between games. Dress up your drinks with a pickleball-themed coozie for the fun of it.
What’s a pickleball party without delicious food to fuel you during gameplay? To amp up the fun, serve your treats atop pickleball-themed plates and napkins.
3. Gift Your Picklers with Pickleball Party Favors
If you’ve got a super competitive crew, throw some “trophies” into the mix to reward the winners of your games. They don’t need to be expensive. It’s mainly for bragging rights anyway. But I’m sure your crew will totally appreciate the extra effort!
Here are a few pickleball party favors that could incentivize your teams to win.
For under $15, grab some pickleball keychains that your friends can put on their pickleball bags or add to their keys.
Trophies are a symbol of great accomplishment. These hand-sized trophies are the perfect reward for MVPs, the top three winners, or everyone who participated.
I love a good, witty copy. As do most people. This is why this pickleball party favor is a top choice for the winning team or player at your event.
Don’t have time to grab a pickleball party favor? Arrange for the losing team to buy the winning team’s meal after the game.
Pickleball can get intense and frustrating at times. But there should also be times when you let loose! Remember that Pickleball, at its core, is fun. So the next time you want to take a break from the mundane, set up a fun pickleball tournament and play on!