Rules of Table Tennis (How to Play Ping Pong)

Rules of Table Tennis (How to Play Ping Pong)



Rules of Table Tennis (Ping Pong)


Perhaps the smallest scaled racquet (paddle) and ball sport, table tennis, often referred to as ping pong, originated in the late 1800s in England. As the sport gained in popularity,  a formal rule book would be written in the early 1900s. Nearly every rule from early table tennis still exists in today’s game. The governing body of the sport is called the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).


How to play Table Tennis


Aside from a regulation table, all a competitor will need to play a game of table tennis is a pong ball and a paddle. The ball is very small and lightweight (about 40 millimeters in diameter), which allows it to travel through the air quickly and requires precision from the player in order to strike it.


Table tennis is a very fast paced sport, with great emphasis on hand-eye coordination. Since the ball is also playable outside of the table, players will have to be quick on their feet to chase the ball down. It could take years to climb the International ranks of professional table tennis players.


Rules of Table Tennis


  • Table tennis can be played either singles or doubles. The scoring system formerly went to 21, but to make games progress quicker and increase the importance of each point, it is now 11.
  • Dimensions of a table are 9 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 2.5 feet high. There is a 6 inch net dividing the two halves of the table. Tables are typically made of soft wood or composite.
  • Opening possession is usually decided by a coin toss. When serving, the player must hold the ball with an open palm and drop it from a distance of at least 6 inches.
  • There are three ways to score: If the ball bounces twice on your opponent’s side of the table, if they fail to return at all, or if their return hits their end of the net.
  • If your serve hits the netting, than it’s a change of possession -- not a point.
  • Players cannot move or interfere with the playing table in a way that distracts the other player. This will be a foul.
  • Because of the small size of the table, players do not have to serve diagonally -- unlike other racquet sports like squash and tennis.
  • Games will usually be played to best of three, five, or nine -- depending on the tournament.
  • Games will never end in a tie. When a game is 10 -10, a player must score two clear points to be declared the winner.


Chinese players absolutely dominate the sport of table tennis. Since 1981, China has captured 109 of 131 available world titles. Another fun fact about table tennis is that there’s over 1,500 different rubber and pattern options for paddles. Each rubber or pattern can provide a different flight or spin on the pong ball.





Written by: Devin Pickell

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