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Double Elimination Tournaments in Pickleall - Expectations and Preparation


By Stephen Bass

on Dec 04, 2022

There are many tournament formats with the main two being double-elimination bracket tournaments and round-robin tournaments.  I like both styles as they offer different experiences, and one might be better for you than the other.  Today, I’ll talk about double elimination bracket tournaments, so you can get an idea of what to expect and make a choice if it is right for you.

Double Elimination Bracket Tournaments

What is it?

When I played tennis in high school most of the tournaments were double elimination style tournaments.  You have a main bracket that you usually play best of 3 games with games to 11. You keep playing in the main bracket until you lose.  When you lose your first match you move down the loser’s bracket (also known as the opportunity bracket).  In most opportunity brackets you will play games to 15 where you need to win by 2.  You keep playing in the opportunity bracket until you lose again and then your day is done.  Some tournaments will let you reach the gold medal round through the opportunity bracket where you will have to win the best of 3 games and then win another game to 15.  The reason behind this is every team is given the opportunity to lose 1 match. 

What do I like about it?

I think a double elimination bracket tournament can lead to the most exciting and intense pickleball games.  Knowing you can only lose two matches puts pressure on all the teams and can bring the best play out of some people.  Yes, it can bring out the nerves for some people but after your first tournament, you can adjust to this new pressure and learn to embrace it. 

Having medal rounds where you know the prize is on the line can make for a very exciting game.  That is one aspect of a tournament a round-robin cannot offer unless they are doing group stages with the top 2 or 4 playing a small bracket.

What do I not like about it?

There are a few things to not like about a double elimination tournament and it really depends on the person and what they are looking to get out of a tournament.  The first problem that can occur is these tournaments can run a long time if the tournament is run poorly and with more tournaments popping up you know we will have a lot of poorly run tournaments.  Tournaments can be poorly run due to overscheduling too many flights at the same time, lack of sufficient courts, and bad tournament directors.  You can also run into weather delays that make it a full day of waiting and little play.  In one tournament I waited three hours between my winner bracket match and the gold medal match.  If I knew that going in, I wouldn’t have played.  I suggest asking people who have previously participated in a tournament how it was run and being skeptical about new tournaments popping up when they are doing fundraising.  These tournaments are often run by first-time tournament directors, and they usually don’t know what they are doing.

Cost is something that can be a problem with tournaments as it seems tournament costs keep getting higher and usually the only prize you can win is a cheap medal.  Now, most people aren’t playing because of the prizes, but keep in mind you can usually do mixed doubles and gender doubles for the same price or a little more.

Should you play in a double elimination bracket tournament?

If you love competition and want to test your skills, then I highly recommend trying a double elimination bracket tournament.  It brought back good memories from my tennis days, and it is a lot of fun to play against different players trying their hardest.  I would start with a round robin tournament, if possible, just to get the most experience out of your first tournament, but don’t be afraid to start with a double elimination bracket tournament.  Remember even if you are out early you can watch all the other exciting matches.  

Check out these tips from Selkirk TV to help get you prepared for your next tournament. 

And for those of you who want an in depth look how the pros prepare, take a look at what Tyson does to prepare for pro tournaments:

Want to see what I am up to on TikTok? You can follow me @PickleballDad

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