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The Ping Pong Rules You Need to Know Before You Start Playing

Ping pong rules

This guide isn’t meant to be an A-Z boring rule book of each and every ping pong rule ever written. Oh know, The Bro Zone is far too cool for that… or so we tell ourselves any way. Instead this guide will give you a real quick rundown of the ping pong rules that you need to know in order to have a fun and entertaining game with friends.

How to Play Ping Pong

Although a ping pong table includes a line straight through the centre, in singles this serves no purpose so you can completely ignore it. Some people may try to tell you that you must serve from one corner to another diagonally similar to tennis, in singles however this isn’t true either so ignore them as well and serve wherever you want.

Keeping Score

In a quick game of ping pong usually the first player to reach 11 points wins. This however can be extended to 21 as is done for table tennis in the Olympics if you want a more serious game or feel playing to 11 is over too quickly. Regardless of whether you play to 11 or 21 you must win by at least two clear points. Meaning if the score is tied 10-10 you must win by a margin of two meaning 10-12 would be the winning score.

A point is one on each and every play, meaning you can win points on your opponents serve as well.

Edges of the tables count as in and are part of the playing surface while the sides are out. This is important, if you edge the table celebrate, if you somehow hit the side completely your opponent has won the point.

Depending on whether you play to 11 or 21 will depend on how many serves each player has. If you’re playing to 11 each player serves twice before switching, if playing to 21 this increases to 5 serves each. If scores are tied either 10-10 or 20-20 then each player alternates serve after every one play making the content fairer at the sudden death.

How to Serve Properly in Ping Pong

To serve legally in ping pong you need to hold the ping pong ball in the palm of your non-playing hand and toss it at least 6 inches in to the before hitting it to your opponent. However the ball must bounce once on your side of the table and then once on your opponents to be a legal serve. If the ball bounces more than once on their side of the table, as with all plays you win the point. If however you completely miss their side of the table the point is there’s.

If the serve hits the net, you also lose the point however if it touches the net and still lands on your opponents side of the table this is given as Let and you must re-serve. Unlike tennis if you fail on your first attempt you’re not given a second serve so be careful.

In doubles, as with traditional outdoor tennis you must serve from one corner of the table to the other, crossing the centre line in the process with bounces on both sides (once in your half and once in your opponents half of the court).

Are There Different Rules for Amateurs and Professionals?

While table tennis is the formal game that is known for its popularity in the Olympics every four years, ping pong is the social game played with friends although there is not a whole lot of difference between the two in terms of rules.

If you really want a boring few hours you can read each and every law of table tennis laid out here, but that’s up to you. Personally we believe the basic guide above is more than enough to start playing straight away.

Some ‘traditional’ rules include flipping a coin to decide who serves first but this is a little too serious when playing with friends. Instead you can ‘play for serve’. Start by throwing the ball to your opponent for them to return back, the ball must pass over the net three times and whoever wins that rally gets to serve.

Ping Pong Rules to Remember

  • When returning a ball, your opponent must let the ball bounce before hitting it back. This means they can volley the ball as in tennis and must let it bounce.
  • In singles you can serve to any part of the court, in doubles it must go diagonally.
  • You can only hit the ball sing your ping pong paddle once on your side of the court, no double hits.
  • Ball can only bounce once on the table, if it bounces twice it is a point to your opponent.
  • If playing doubles you and your partner must play alternate shots. If played out of turn you lose the point