How To Play Ping Pong Rules

How To Play Ping Pong Rules

Last modified: September 26, 2023


Ping pong, also known as table tennis, is a fast-paced and exciting sport that can be played by people of all ages and skill levels. The game is played with two players, each using a paddle to hit a lightweight ball back and forth across a table divided by a net. While ping pong may seem simple, there are specific rules that players must follow in order to play the game correctly and competitively.

The Serve

When starting a game of ping pong, one player serves the ball to their opponent. The serve must start from behind the end of the table and must go over the net and land on the opponent’s side of the table. The ball must bounce once on the server’s side of the table before crossing the net. The serve alternates between players every two points, with each player serving for one point.

Serving Rules:

  • The ball must be tossed vertically at least 6 inches and struck before it hits the ground.
  • The serve must be hit from an open palm and the paddle must be below the server’s wrist.
  • The ball must be struck behind the server’s end line and above the table surface.

Basic Gameplay

Once the serve is made, the players take turns hitting the ball back and forth. The ball must bounce once on each side of the table before being returned. Players must hit the ball over the net and ensure it lands within the boundaries of the opponent’s side of the table. The ball must also clear the net without touching it.

Scoring Points:

  • A player scores a point if their opponent fails to return the ball, hits it out of bounds, or fails to comply with the rules.
  • In singles play, the first player to reach 11 points wins the game, but they must win by a margin of two points.
  • In doubles play, the first team to reach 21 points wins the game, also with a margin of two points.

Serving Alternation

In ping pong, serving alternates between players every two points. In singles play, players switch sides of the table after every odd-numbered point. In doubles play, players on the serving team switch positions after every point. This ensures fairness and equal opportunities for both players or teams.

Let Serve:

If the ball, during a serve, touches the net but still lands in the proper service area, it is called a “let serve.” A let serve does not count as a fault, and the server gets another chance to serve without losing a point.

Illegal Shots

While playing ping pong, there are certain shots that are considered illegal and result in a point loss for the player or team committing the fault.

Illegal Shots Include:

  • Failing to let the ball bounce on your side of the table before hitting it.
  • Touching the table with your free hand during a rally.
  • Moving the table or touching the net with your body or paddle.
  • Obstructing your opponent’s view or obstructing their play intentionally.


Knowing and following the rules of ping pong is essential for an enjoyable and fair game. From serving to gameplay and serving alternation, each rule ensures that both players or teams have equal opportunities to showcase their skills and compete. By understanding and abiding by these rules, players can engage in friendly or competitive matches and challenge themselves to improve their ping pong abilities. So grab a paddle, find a partner, and get ready to enjoy the fast-paced and exhilarating game of ping pong!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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