Ping Pong 101: The Rules of Ping Pong

December 28, 2019
by Antonio
  • Ping Pong 101: The Rules of Ping Pong

The official rules of ping pong are very extensive. That is so because the main goal of these rules and regulations is to address the many situations that may occur during an individual game.


All of these rules and regulations are under the cap of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). They make slight changes to the table tennis rules each year.


Well, if you are a beginner player, you don’t need to know every rule ITTF specified. To make things easier for you all, we have summarized their rules. You can find the essential table tennis rules in the paragraphs awaiting you further!


Beginning the Game


Before the beginning of the match itself, you need to decide which player will serve first. In casual, non-professional games, you can decide to “play for serve”. This consists of a single round, with the victorious player serving first.


The official rules of ping pong are a bit different when it comes to beginning the match. There are two methods of determining who serves first. A coin toss is the easiest method. In the other method, one player hides the ball in one of his hands, puts the hands behind, and the opposing player has to guess where the ball is located.


The winner in either of these two methods has three choices: choose to serve first, make the opponent serve first, or decide the side of the table he wants to play on first.


Service Rules


The service in ping pong is the beginning of an individual round. There are lots of rigorous rules for serving, both for single and double games. Here is the summary of the service rules.


First of all, the service must start with the player holding the ball in an open palm.


The player must throw the ball vertically, at least 16 cm from the table. That way, you won’t give your opponent an unwanted surprise.


Another rule that applies to all players is that the ball has to be above and behind the table through the service. Your opponents need a fair chance of returning the serve, after all.


Finally, after the serving player throws the ball, he/she needs to put the free arm and hand out of the way, so that the opponent can see the ball.


Also, when playing a one-on-one match, you don’t need to serve diagonally. That is reserved for a game with pairs or a doubles game.


For more service rules, we advise you to check out the informative video below!



Doubles Rules


Doubles in Ping Pong.


First of all, when you serve in a doubles game, your service must go diagonally. Basically, a player serves from his right-hand side to the opposing right-hand side of the table.


Also, the doubles must strike the ball alternately. This further enhances the challenge of the match and makes positioning an important aspect of the match.


The last important rule for the doubles game is the service switch. To make sure that everyone is included in the game, the previous receiver becomes a new server and vice versa for the other side.


The Flow of the Game


So, after the first service, the ping pong game takes off! Each player has two serves before handing out the service to the opposing player.


Basically, the goal of a ping pong game is to outscore your opponent. Until 2001, the first player who got to 21 points was declared a winner. To make the game more dynamic, ITTF changed the score limit to 11 points. So, the winner of a ping pong game is the first player who gets to 11 points, unless there is a deuce. What is a deuce? It is a situation when the score is 10-10. Then, each player serves once, and the winner is the player who wins by two clear points.


If you are not playing in sets, but rather in the best of 3, 5, or 7 games; then you must change the end of the table after each game.


Scoring Rules


Scoring in Ping Pong.


In ping pong, if a player wants to score a point, he needs to keep the ball longer in play than the opponent. There are numerous ways on how to lose points, dictated by the official rules of ping pong. Here are some of them:


  1. Missing the service.

  2. Failing to return the service.

  3. The ball bounces two times on your side of the table.

  4. When the ball hits the net on your side.

  5. Shooting the ball of the table.

  6. Not hitting the returned ball.

  7. Hitting the ball before the bounce on the table.

  8. Putting the non-playing hand on the table, or moving the table/net during the game.


We hope that now you have an outline of the official ping pong rules. These rules are utilized both in amateur and professional games. If you want to dive deeper into the rules and regulations of ping pong, check out the ITTF handbook.


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