Pickleball Subs. A great three player variation!

Tonight I met up with two buddies to play some Pickleball and we decided to figure out a way to have all three of us playing that didn’t involve playing two against one. I came up with a three player variation that we had a blast with and wanted to share it. I’m calling it “Pickleball Subs” (rules are below this paragraph). The higher scoring player is forced to play consecutively longer, and so has to rely on their stamina to keep them going while the two lower scoring players naturally support each other in wanting to keep the winning player from scoring.

Pickleball Subs is a three player variant meant to keep each player engaged in the game while allowing singles play.

Pickleball Subs is played with all of the basic singles rules with the exception of the rules governing subbing and some minor scoring rules changes.

In Pickleball Subs, two players (the active players) will face each other on the court while one other player, (the waiting player), awaits their turn to sub into the game. This is called a round.

A “sub-in” occurs once two cumulative points have been scored in a round. The active player with the lower score will “sub-out”, with the waiting player taking their place.

In the event of a tie after 2 cumulative points have been scored, the active players will play until one additional point has been scored. Then a sub-in will occur.

Players will track and maintain their own scores. For example:

Player A has 5 points
Player B has 3 points
Player C has 2 points

Player A and B are the active players, while player C is waiting.

Player A scores 1 point, bringing their score to 6.

Player B then scores 1 point, bringing their score to 4.

2 cumulative points have been scored.

Player B has the lower score, so they sub-out, with Player C taking their place.

Player A is now facing Player C and the score is 6 points to 2 points.

Play continues in this manner until one player scores 11 points and has won by 2 points.

In the event a player scores their 11th point as the second cumulative point of a round against a player who has 10 points, a sub-in still occurs. The player who scored their 11th point resets their score to 10 points and continues play.

I highly suggest this variation if you can’t find a fourth for doubles. We will likely always play this moving forward if we end up with three players. It really is great and surprisingly engaging. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


This is so awesome, Chris! I love that it keeps all three players engaged at the same level and also has a great element of competition!

I’m always looking for great games to play with three people (for when your fourth bails on you!) and I’m definitely going to give this a try.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Yeah! Please, let me know how it goes. We’ve had a couple games where two players fell behind quite a bit, only for both to score enough to become the two active players during the final point. It’s a pretty invigorating feeling to go from two players cheering each other on to two rivals playing for the win! If I’m being honest, I think I like this better than doubles.

As a little addition, you can have the two players who did not win play against each other with their current scores to determine a second place.

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I love it! So you’re playing it with 4 people too. How cool is that??

I’m going to try to test out the game this week and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks again for sharing. It’s always fun to mix things up!

We haven’t played it with four people. Sorry if I wasn’t clear in my last reply, but I bet it could be played that way!

No worries! If I had four, I think I’d have a hard time playing anything but doubles anyways :joy: