Entering Your First PPA Tour Event!

Shared Experience

We learned a lot competing in our first PPA Tournament and wanted to share with you a few tips to help y0u maximize your enjoyment.

1. Finding PPA Tournaments Near You

You can find all the upcoming PPA Tour stops here:


Suppose we wanted to compete in the Takeya Showcase August 3-6, 2023 in Fountain Valley, CA. Clicking on the tour stop will take you to this page which has all the information:

The Takeya Showcase Presented by Best Day Brewing

Simply click on “Register to Play” which will take you to https://pickleballbrackets.com. You will need to create an account on Pickleballbrackets.com in order to register.

Simply select your desired events. Keep in mind, that your age is determined by how old you are at the end of the year. So I turned 50 in April, but I could have registered for the 50+ events in February if I wanted. So if your  child is turning 10 later this year, you can enter them into the 10-34 brackets if you want.

Small Rant

I really wish they had brackets at the PPA Tour stops for kids. Sure you can play with adults, but if we want to cultivate the next generation of pickleball enthusiasts it would be cool if they had their own division. It was tough watching my son play against and lose to an unathletic 27-year-old in singles who simply had more height and reach.

Selfishly, I wish they had an under-14 and over-50 split-age men’s doubles bracket. My son and I would fare much better in a bracket like that versus playing the 8-34 Men’s Doubles.

Final note: You can play down in age, but you can’t play up. So if you’re 50 you can play 8-34, but you can’t play 55+.

Extremely Important

When you register for a tournament, we HIGHLY SUGGEST you opt into receiving text messages from the tournament organizer about match times and updates. We spent several hours hanging out near the tournament officials’ tent due to weather delays. So many people missed their matches saying they never received a text. And the officials informed them that’s because they didn’t opt into texts for the entire tournament! So if you do one thing, this is the tip.

You should also refresh your tournament bracket on pickleballbrackets.com every 5-10 minutes on match day. We had one instance where we were scheduled to play a match but didn’t receive a text. Luckily we kept refreshing our page and it showed our court assignment. About halfway through the match we finally got the text message. Had we relied solely on SMS updates, we may have been forfeited.

Finally, if you’re entering with a child, you’ll need separate accounts for each. We kept my accounts open in Chrome and my son’s accounts open in Brave on my mobile phone so I didn’t have to keep logging in and out of accounts.

Also, charge your phone to 100% before you leave, and bring a battery bank if you have one. There are not a lot of places to charge your phone on the tournament grounds, and you’ll want to take pics and videos, as well as refreshing the tournament page 1000 times. It really kills your battery life. There’s nothing like having your phone at 9%, waiting for the SMS court assignment for your last match, and praying your phone doesn’t die. (Speaking from experience, it adds a lot more stress to an already stressful situation!)

Jett got to play on championship court after hours at PPA San Clemente

2. What Events Should I Enter?

If you have never played in a rated tournament before, we’d highly suggest entering the lowest skill division available. While you may be a “4.0” in your local community, there are going to be people just like you who are playing their first tournament, who are unrated and will be crushing the competition. So register as low as possible and move up as your rating improves.

We received this advice from several experienced players who have played in numerous tournaments. We took their advice and were glad we did.

3. How Do I Get an Official Rating?

You’ll be prompted to create a DUPR account once you register. If you do not create one, one will be created for you. Creating a DUPR account makes it easier for tournament directors to manage the event. You’re going to need one eventually, so you might as well sign up and be in control of what information is in your profile.

4. How many events should I enter?

Our recommendation would be to enter 1-2 events maximum for your first tournament. The reason for this is that on your tournament days, you will likely spend the bulk of the day waiting for court assignments and moving between courts.

This is in addition to playing (hopefully) several intense matches. In our experience, we were ready to go back to the hotel as soon as our event was completed because we were exhausted. So this didn’t leave us much time to watch the pro matches or mingle with pros and content creators.

You also need to pay close attention to when each bracket has matches. If you have a child playing singles and you’re playing mixed doubles, you need to make sure the events aren’t on the same day. Even if they are at different times, the brackets can get backed up due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

Sometimes the matches simply take longer and a bracket gets held up. This can push back the entire schedule for EVERY division on that day as they are all sharing the same set of courts.

Also, keep in mind, that tournament matches are much more intense, and the environment can be more stressful than playing games on your home court or local tournament. Everyone goes hard, every point. So if you’re used to playing a dozen matches a day, you’ll feel even more exhausted after 4-5 tournament matches.

There’s nothing worse than registering for too many divisions/events and not being able to complete them due to scheduling or exhaustion. So take a conservative approach to your first event. Once you get a feel for the flow of PPA Tour events, then add on more competition as you gain experience.

Jett and Dad in front of the PPA Tour sign in San Clemente

5. Costs

Entry Fees

Each division/bracket is currently $130 per person, per bracket. So if you sign up your child for singles, and you plan to play doubles together, you’re looking at $130 + $260 = $390 plus taxes and fees. There are also options for weather insurance but we didn’t opt for it due to the tournament location being in SOCAL.

Grounds Passes, Courtside Tickets, and VIP Passes

Grounds Passes: $25 per day, $80 weeklong. You get free weeklong grounds passes for registering to play in any event, so you don’t need to buy them separately!

Courtside Tickets: $40 per day Thursday & Friday, $50 per day Saturday and Sunday. Weeklong courtside tickets are $130 per person

VIP Passes: $200 Thursday & Friday. $250 per day on Saturday and Sunday. $750 weeklong

You get weeklong grounds passes just for entering ANY division, so don’t bother buying them unless you have family members who want to attend and who are not competing.

We bought weeklong courtside tickets, which turned out to be wasteful. On the days we were competing, singles and gendered doubles day, we hardly watched any pro events as we were so busy with our tournaments.

We did use our courtside tickets on mixed doubles day, but it was Friday, not that busy, and I don’t think they were enforcing which wristbands could sit courtside. Especially on singles day, you can walk right down to the front row and nobody cares.

On gendered doubles day, Saturday, things started to get more crowded, and at this event, they had ushers that were enforcing courtside wristbands. You could still stand and see the events with grounds passes, but if you wanted to sit on the lower rows you needed courtside tickets.

On Championship Sunday, you absolutely want to get courtside tickets. It will be busy. The event staff will be making sure you have courtside tickets in order to get good seats.

We didn’t opt for VIP passes at either event because, when I purchased tickets to our first PPA Tour event, the only information available at the time was that you got lunch in the VIP section. My kid is a picky eater, so a free lunch isn’t worth the extra money. There were no pictures or seating maps showing fans what they got for their extra $200 per ticket.

After seeing how the events are set up, I wouldn’t recommend buying VIP access at this time. Sure you get a “chair” and supposedly better seats. But our courtside seats were actually closer to the action at both events. Also, the courtside seats seem to be where the real fans are and the section that is having the most fun.

The PPA Tour could certainly do more with the VIP section, including having dedicated times for pro player meet and greet. But as it stands now, you can get access to pretty much all the pros with a grounds pass. At both events, we kept our eye on the VIP section and saw pros sitting in there pretty rarely, and were easy to approach even if you only had grounds passes.

I guess if you like to flex your VIP lanyard, that’s cool, but for most people, the value proposition just isn’t there.


Hotel prices are reasonable if you book in advance. The tournament we attended was in San Clemente, CA. There were beachside resorts that were 2x the cost of the Holiday Inn Express we booked. Our criteria for booking is twofold:

  • How close are we to the tournament venue
  • How far away are good public pickleball courts

We had visions of hanging out on the beach during our trip, but we spent all our time at the local pickleball courts and the tournament venue. So buying the beachside lodging would have been a waste.

We drove into town on Wednesday, as we had a 7:00 am start time for men’s singles the following morning. We checked out on Sunday. Our total for 4 nights of lodging was $1032 plus taxes and fees.

Food and Drink

If you’re competing that day, we highly recommend bringing some healthy snacks with you. You don’t have time to run around waiting in line for food between matches. At the event in St. George, UT, the only food available was deep-fried corndogs from a food truck, another truck selling a protein cookie, and one other truck selling some kind of dessert.

In San Clemente, they had a grill that had hamburgers and hot dogs. They also offered some muffins, some fruit, etc.

In both cases, you’re going to pay around $20 per person per meal. So not exactly cheap. And not really the kind of food you want to be eating during a tournament.

What we did was throw some protein bars in our tour bags along with some other healthy snacks, and simply munched on those as our energy levels got low.

Total Cost

Our St. George trip, where we only went for Friday and Saturday as spectators cost around $1200 total.

For our San Clemente Trip, the total was just under $2300 for four nights, 3 events, and weeklong courtside tickets. You can probably do it cheaper, but we stayed in pretty decent accommodations, ate out a lot, and spent more on event tickets than we should have.

Just keep in mind, that the further in advance you book, you’ll have more options and better prices.

Jett entering PPA Tour San Clemente

6. Event Entry

Pro tip at check-in

There are two lines at each event, one for player check-in, and one for spectators. If you are playing that day you MUST check in at the Player Registration table on entry.

This puts you into the system as “checked-in” for your bracket. You don’t have to do anything after this besides wait for your court assignments via text.

If you have courtside tickets for the same day, you may need to go to the next table over to get your courtside wristbands. Every time we checked in, whether we were playing or not, they tried to give us grounds passes, and I had to insist we had weeklong courtside tickets. A supervisor would have to come over and use the computer to look us up.

When purchasing, save your QR code in your phone so you can present it at the entry desk. This is our second tournament where we received no confirmation email and the lookup process was a mess.

7. Match Days

On days you have an event, you need to go to the tournament director’s tent so you know where it is. We went there to check in because we had no idea what to do, and they informed us we were already in the system because we checked in at the player desk upon entry.

But you will need to come to this tent to get your game ball, scorecard, etc. when you get your first court assignment. The way it works is the first team/player to check in receives the game ball. The second player/team to check in gets a basket with an additional ball, scorecard, and pencil.

At this particular event, they wrote a number, 1 or 2, on the back of the scorecard. The first player who picked up the ball guesses 1 or 2. The second player gets to look at the number. Whoever wins the number guess gets to pick if they want to choose to serve or receive, defer, or choose which side they want to start on.

The loser gets to choose whichever the winner didn’t pick. So if the winner chooses to serve first, the loser gets to choose which side they start on.

Normally all matches are best out of 3, games to 11, win by two. Due to the weather at our event, the matches were changed to one game to 15, win by 2. Everything got so backed up it was eventually one game to 11 win by 2, with gold medal matches being games to 15. It was a mess and really disappointing, but there wasn’t much the tournament staff could do about the weather.

At the end of the match, both teams must sign the scorecard. The winner takes the basket and scorecard back to the tournament tent to turn in the score.

Once that is done, you’ll receive an SMS updating the results.


Early in the bracket, you may be refereeing your own games. If you do have a problem, request a referee. They will do their best to assign one. Don’t wait until the match is out of hand to request a ref. If the other team is blatantly calling bad lines, serving illegally, or hindering play, get a ref immediately.

Complaining after the match does you no good.

In our first match, the opposing team never showed up. We were down there warming up and one of the head refs we see on every broadcast showed up. I couldn’t believe it. She helped us navigate what to do next. It was so cool. We had the very same refs helping with our low-level bracket that officiates the biggest pro matches.

It made my son feel important and gave us confidence that the PPA Tour cared about our experience. They could’ve just updated us via SMS, but the fact they sent a high-level official down to communicate what was happening meant a lot.

Warming Up

For us, we went to public courts beforehand to warm up. You will NOT get much time on the tournament courts as there are matches going on all day.

You get an official 6 minutes to warm up before your match. In our experience, if you are paying attention and can grab the ball and head to the court as soon as it is assigned, you may get up to 20 minutes to warm up while you wait for your opponents.

Just keep in mind, that there will likely be long waits between games, so both you and your competitors will be starting pretty much over every match. Just do your best to limit the damage to the first few points. Be conservative. Keep the ball in play. Let your opponents make mistakes. As you start to get into your flow, then go for more aggressive shots and strategies.

If you want to practice again in the evening, go back to the public courts. We even ran into a lot of pros at the local courts because there was no place to play at the tournament venue if you weren’t in an official match!

We met AJ Koller, Rob Nunnery, and Erik Lange at the local pickleball courts in San Clemente

8. Parking and Transportation

You need to pay careful attention to the parking and transportation situation regarding your specific tournament. At the Red Rock Open in St. George, UT, we pulled right up to the venue and parked within 100 yards of the entrance. This allowed us to return to the car for snacks, and water, and to refresh our sunscreen.

At the Orange County Cup in San Clemente, CA, we had to park at nearby San Clemente High School and take a shuttle to the venue, Lifetime Fitness. This meant we had to arrive early and make sure we brought everything we needed for the day with us.

This is where having a tour bag comes into play. We both have CRBN Pro Tour bags, which have enough room for 6 paddles, shoes, changes of clothes, and extra hydration and snacks. (If you use code PBJETTCRBN at checkout you can get one 10% off and my son gets a little bonus to help further his pickleball dream.)

Each venue will have its own setup, so be sure you know what’s going on and arrive at least an hour before your scheduled match time.

Father and son having a blast at PPA Tour San Clemente

9. Have Fun

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of tournament play and focus solely on winning. We take pickleball pretty seriously, but at the end of the day, we do it to have fun.

If you’re not having fun anymore, you now have a job that you don’t like. Just keep in mind, when you lose, you’re presented with opportunities to grow. It’s not failure. Failure is giving up when things don’t go your way. Every pro has a bad game, a bad day, a bad tournament. Learn from the experience and use the memory to fuel your drive to reach your goals.

How DUPR ratings work infographic

10. DUPR and other Rating Systems

A note on DUPR scores: Your DUPR doesn’t define who you are as a pickleball player. We all have different strengths and abilities. DUPR is simply a way to try to put players of similar skill in the same brackets at tournaments.

If you keep playing, your DUPR will eventually be a good indicator of your skill level. If you keep practicing, drilling, and working on improving your weaknesses, your DUPR will improve. You should never NOT play because you’re worried your DUPR is going to go down.

In short, obsessing over your DUPR is wasted energy that could be put to good use in other aspects of your game. Also, any anxiety associated with your DUPR going down will negatively affect your ability to play. Tournament play is stressful enough. Worrying about what your DUPR is going to be if you lose is a sure way to ensure defeat.

We met the #1 Mens pickleball player in the world, Ben Johns, who signed a ball and took a picture with Jett

11. Be Sure to Mingle

There are so many amazing people at PPA Tour events. From pro pickleball players to up-and-coming stars, there’s always a new personality to meet. We’ve met so many pros and content creators who were gracious enough to spend the time to talk to us. Now when we reach out to them on their various platforms, we’ve established a relationship and we’re much more likely to get a response.

The key is to not be shy. We’ve been dismissed a few times, usually due to bad timing, but for the most part, if they’re not on their way to an important match or other obligation, they’ll take the time to at least take a picture and say hello. Just don’t try to approach them after they were defeated in the semifinals by their usual doubles partner (looking at you Big Poppa Jimmy). In this specific situation, they’re probably not super chatty.

But if you approach them after they win gold in mixed doubles, you can get an autograph, a picture, and even chat for a bit!

We got to meet James Ignatowich right after he secured the gold in mixed doubles at Red Rock open in St. George, UT