What Are The Basic Rules Of Ping Pong

What Are The Basic Rules Of Ping Pong

Last modified: October 14, 2023

Ping pong, also known as table tennis, is a sport loved by many for its fast pace, strategic gameplay, and potential for both casual play and high-level competition. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice beginner, understanding the basic rules of ping pong is essential for a fun and fair game. So, tighten your grip, tune up that backhand, and let’s serve up some knowledge.

Equipment and Set Up

A proper game of ping pong involves specific types of equipment and a particular arrangement of the playing area. Let’s delve into these basic requirements.

Ping Pong Table

The ping pong table is a rectangular surface that measures 9 feet long by 5 feet wide. The table is divided into two equal halves by a net that stands 6 inches high. All edges of the table should be clear, and there should be at least some room on all sides for players to freely move around.

Ping Pong Balls and Paddles

Ping pong balls should be made of celluloid or similar plastic materials, with a diameter of 40mm for competitive play. Players use paddles made out of laminated rubber and affixed to wooden blades. Each player usually chooses a paddle that suits their style of play– attacking, defensive, or mixed.


There’s no strict dress code in ping pong, but it’s recommended to wear lightweight clothing that doesn’t restrict movement. As for footwear, choose a pair that offers good grip and support for quick and agile footwork.

Serving Rules

Serving in ping pong has its own specific rules and techniques. Here are the basics that you need to respect when serving.

The Toss

The serving player must throw the ball vertically, at least six inches up into the air, from an open palm before striking it with the paddle. This rule ensures fairness and prevents any sneaky spin loading from a concealed serve.

Striking the Ball

The serving player should strike the ball so that it bounces once on their own side of the table and then falls on the opponent’s side. If the serve is legal, the rally will have commenced, and both players can start to return the ball back and forth.


In traditional ping pong, point scoring is done only by the server. If the server fails to make a valid serve, the opponent gets the point. However, in some modern versions of the game, any player can score points whether they are serving or returning.

During Play

Once the serve is made, the real game begins. Let’s look at the rules during play.

The Return

After a legal serve, the ball is considered in play and can be returned by the opponent. Players must let the ball bounce once on their side of the table before returning it to the opponent’s side.

Scoring Points

A player scores a point if their opponent fails to make a legal return, hits the ball twice consecutively, or if the ball touches any part of their body. In addition, if the ball hits the edge of the table and bounces off, the player who last hit the ball gets a point.

The Rally

The rally continues until a player fails to make a legal return, at which point a point will be scored. To keep things fair and competitive, players switch ends every game, and the serving changes after every two points.


Ping pong is a fast, exciting, and strategic game that requires technique, agility, and mental sharpness. Knowing and understanding the basic rules is the first step towards mastering this delightful sport. So, gather your gear, invite a friend, and hit that table. Happy rallying!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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