FAQ: How do you break a tie in a round-robin pickleball tournament?

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Sometimes is it easy to determine who won 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place in a pickleball round-robin, but how do you break a tie?

USA Pickleball has rules on how to break ties. Pickleball Brackets, the main software used in pickleball tournaments, follows the USA Pickleball rules.

Here’s a FAQ on pickleball round-robin tie-breakers. First, I summarize the tiebreaker method, then explain some of the terms used, and finally I include the tiebreaker rules straight from the USA Pickleball rulebook.

How do you determine the final places in a round-robin from first place to last place?

Teams are placed based on how many games they won.

How do you break a tie?

In the event of a tie…

  • First tie-breaker: head-to-head results among tied teams
  • Second tie-breaker: Point differential of all games
  • Third tie-breaker: Head-to-head point differential
  • Fourth tie-breaker: Point differential against the next highest player/team

If that doesn’t break the tie, just go home.

What does “Head to head” mean in a tiebreaker situation?

Head-to-head refers to the result of the game/match between the two tied teams during the tournament. The team who won the head-to-head matchup would get higher placement in the final results.

In most round-robins, the head-to-head result will quickly determine the final placement of the teams, but in a double round-robin tournament, teams face each other twice and could still be tied if they split the wins.

What does “point differential” mean in a tie-breaker situation?

Point differential is the number of points a team earned in a tournament minus the points a team lost. Points earned is often called “Points For” (PF) and points lost is called “Points Against” (PA). Point differential is abbreviated as PD. So…

PD = PF – PA

Sometimes the point differential is calculated based on a) all games played, b) head-to-head games or c) games involving the next highest team.

I hope that helps. And here are the official tie-breaker rules, which appear on Page 48 of the USA Pickleball rulebook:

2023 USA Pickleball Round Robin tiebreaker rules

12.C.3. Round Robin. All players/teams play each other.
Games may use any of the approved tournament
scoring options. (See Rule 12.B.) The winner is
determined based on number of matches won. If two
or more teams are tied, ties shall be broken in
accordance with 12.C.3.a. through 12.C.3.e. Once a tie
has been broken, any subsequent ties in the bracket
shall be broken by going back to 12.C.3.a. and
continuing through each successive tie-breaker until
a winner is determined.

12.C.3.a. Players/Teams that have withdrawn from
the bracket are not eligible to be considered
when going to a tie-breaker. Any
player/team that has withdrawn from the
bracket shall only have their record of
matches won considered. (e.g., Team A has
3 wins, Team B has 3 wins and Team C has 3
wins. However, Team C withdrew from their
last match. Because Team C has withdrawn
from a match in their bracket, only their 3
wins will be considered in their finishing
placement and they will not be considered
for any additional tiebreaker. Team A beat
Team B in their heads up match, therefore
Team A is awarded first place, Team B is
awarded second place and Team C is
awarded third place.)

12.C.3.b. First tie-breaker: head-to-head matches
won among the tied teams.

12.C.3.c. Second tie-breaker: point differential of all
games played. (e.g., Team A won Match 1
11-8, 11-4, so they would have a point
differential of +10. Team A then wins the
second match 11-9, 2-11, 11-6. For this
round, they would have a point differential
of -2. This would give them a total for the
day of +8.)

12.C.3.d. Third tie-breaker: head-to-head point

12.C.3.e. Fourth tie-breaker: point differential against
next-highest player/team (e.g., if the
players/teams are tied for second, use point
differentials against the first-place team.)