Ping Pong Rules & Common Myths

Ping Pong, also known as Table Tennis, is a worldwide, popular sport. So much so that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who play it on an almost everyday basis. It is inclusive of all ages, genders, nationalities, and abilities; making it one of the most inclusive of all sports. It is played by everyone - lawyers, students, bankers, actors, and everything in between. Because it appeals to such a broad spectrum of people – from celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Adele to sport names such as Roger Federer and Steffi Graf – there are some common myths about the actual rules of ping pong that need to be addressed. So, in this post, we are going to discuss some table tennis rules and regulations.

First of all, I believe most of you know some of the rules. Maybe you run into a discussion about them with your friends or kids. Let's have a look at some popular ping pong rules myths:

 1. You have to serve diagonally!
That's true only for table tennis doubles. Unlike "bigger" ball games like squash, badminton, or tennis, in ping pong singles, the service is entirely up to you. However, the ball must first bounce off your half of the table and then on half of your opponent's table.

 2. Don't we play till 21?
This was the official rule until 2001 which is no longer true. To make the game more exciting and thrilling, the rule was changed to play just till 11. Of course, if both players get 10 points (it's called deuce) the player needs to get 2 points lead to win. Whoever does first, wins.

3. The ball hit you - it's my point!
This is a really common myth between players. However no, if the ball was out, the point is lost, whether the ball hits the other player or not. Ping pong is not a dodgeball.

4. The racket has to have one side black and one side red!
Ok, this is maybe not a myth yet but soon to be. One side black, the other side red was an official rule. However after Olympic Games in Tokyo (2020+), the rule is changing to one side black, one side other contrasting bright color.


Starting of the game

Who serves first?

It is really common for recreational players to play for the first serve. However, in the official competitions, you usually toss a coin to decide this. If you want to play for the first serve, just agree on the rules before. 

What are the service rules?

The ball has to be visible and behind the ending line of the table throughout the serve. As mentioned above, in singles you do not have to serve diagonally. The ball must hit your half first and then the half of your opponent. (Unlike during a game, the ball cannot touch the net. If it does, we call it "a let" - the point does not count.) In doubles, you have to serve from your right-hand side to your opponent's right-hand side of the table. If the ball hits the net you have to serve again.

Let's move on to some more tricky rules of a table tennis serve. Before tossing the ball, your palm has to be open allowing your opponent to see the ball. You have to toss the ball at least 6 inches above your palm and finish your serve. When the ball leaves your palm you have to serve - you cannot catch it and try again as you are used to from regular tennis. 

Game Principals 

The principal of the game is trying to return the ball to the opponent's half. The ball has to fly over the net or around it (yes, that's ok too!) and touch only the opponent's half (except the service). The ball can touch the net as well, however, it cannot fly between the net and the table top. If the ball doesn't hit the opponent's half, the opponent gets the point and vice versa. 

The ball should be played with a paddle. If you inadvertently play with the part of the hand holding the paddle up to your wrist, or the ball slides on your finger on the paddle, the ball is valid. The non-playing hand must not touch the game board. The player must not touch the net with the paddle or any part of the body or clothing. The player must not move the table by the body or clothing when touching the table.

The table tennis match is played on an odd number of sets of 3, 5, or 7. The winner is the one who reaches the first 2, 3, or 4 winning sets. The set is played until 11 and the difference must be two points. If there is no difference of two points when reaching 11 points, the game continues until there is a difference of two points. The service alternates in pairs from 10:10 onwards.

What do you need to play?

  1. Table Tennis Table - the official approved table is 9ft long, 5ft wide, 2.5ft high. However, if you still want to enjoy at least a little bit of the ping pong fun and don't have enough space, don't focus just on the ping pong table dimensions. You can still buy a small table and enjoy some fun with your friends and family. Don`t worry to invent your own rules :). Check our collection of indoor tables, outdoor tables, and of course as well small ping pong tables.
  2. Ping Pong Ball - the officially approved ball is a 40+ plastic ball. Official table tennis rules allow 2 colors - white and yellow. A lot of players prefer the yellow color as it stands out against the table-top color.
  3. Table Tennis Paddle - the paddle can be of any size, shape, or weight but the blade shall be flat and rigid. Even though you can find various colors of the paddles on the market (if you are a hobby player, you can just enjoy whatever color you like), according to the official rules, one side of the blade has to be black and the other one... were you about to say red? As mentioned above, that`s no longer going to be true - the official rules are changing for the color to be any bright color clearly distinguishable from black. 
  4. Table Tennis Net - the approved height of the net is 6 inches.

We have you covered - just choose your favorite table and then choose accessories that will best fit your table.