When you start playing ping pong in your man cave it helps to have a good handle on the rules. Whilst there are a number of rules to learn, especially if you’re entering competitions, you only need to know the basics to start enjoying table tennis
As with most sports if you are looking to compete you’ll want to track down the specific rules of the group, organisation or competition that you’ll be playing in. But for now, the simple ping pong rules for beginners listed below will be enough to get you started.
Generally, a ping pong match is a series of games, the winner is whoever wins 3 out of 5 games (or 4 out of 7 and so on). Each game is normally played to 11, however, a game needs to be won by at least 2 points. So, if a game reaches 10 to 10, you’ll need another 2 points to win. During a match each player will switch sides at the end of each game. During the final game the players will also switch sides after 5 points are scored.
Ping Pong is one of my favorite tabletop games. It’s quick, it requires skill, its great fun and it can help with your fitness. Plus it’s an olympic sport – A win win of a game. If you are new to Ping Pong (Table Tennis) or you are a beginner but are not sure of the rules, I have compiled a simple ping pong rules for beginners checklist.
Ping Pong Rules for Serving
Service start position
The ball must be behind the back edge of the table. The ball must also be above the height of the table. This stops the server from hiding the ball below the table when serving.
The serve starts with the ball in the center of your palm and your palm open and flat. The reason for this is to stop you spinning the ball with your fingers at service. Any spin must be generated from hitting the ball.
The ball must be thrown vertically upwards by more than 6 inches / 16 cms before being hit by the racket / paddle and must be seen at all times during the serve. When I started playing, these rules didn’t exist – you could serve directly from your hand. However, over time, players would hide their serve or serve quickly making it difficult for the opponent to gauge when the serve would happen.
As soon as you throw the ball vertically, the ball is in play. So if you throw the ball, swing and miss the serve your opponent scores a point.
Serving across diagonally – unlike tennis, squash or badminton, in a ping pong singles match you do not need to serve diagonally to your opponent. You can serve straight.
Can the Ball Bounce twice?
Yes and No – The ball must bounce once on your side of the net and once on your opponent’s side of the net at service (bounce twice). After service and during play, the ball must only bounce once on the opponent’s side of the net when returning a shot.
If the ball hits the net and remains on your side of the table the server loses a point. If the ball hits the net but bounces on the opposition side you play a ‘let’ serve.
You switch serves after every 2 points scored. When I started playing you switched service after 5 points because each game was the first to 21 points.
Players change ends after each game.
Ping Pong Rules for Scoring
You score a point:
- If your opponent fails to return the ball onto your side of the table.
- Your opponent hits the ball before it hits their side of the table (bounces).
- Your opponent places touches the table or net with their free hand.
- Your opponent lets the ball bounce twice or more.
- Your opponent completes a fowl serve (See serving rules above).
Each match is the first to 11 points. If the score is 10/10 or deuce then the winner must win by 2 clear points.
You can either play a single game or best of 3, best of 5 and so on.
Ping Pong Rules for Doubles
The rules of ping pong doubles games are very similar to the single player rules except:
- The serve must be diagonally (like in tennis).
- Each player takes it in-turn to return the ball (you can’t return the ball two shots in a row).
- Each player still serves two service points. On each two service points the server will serve to the same player. When it is that persons turn to serve again, they will serve to the second opponent.
There you have it – a quick and simple ping pong rules for beginners list to get you started based on the official ITTF rules. This really is a great game to play with many health benefits, plus as you can see from the rules above, it’s quick and easy to learn.
Where to Practice Now You Know The Rules?
One way is to find a local club. There are a number of quick resources to help. In the USA there is the Team USA find a club page and in England there is Ping England. A quick Google search for ‘find ping pong clubs near me’ will also help.
If you want to play table tennis more regularly at home but do not have the room for a free-standing table tennis table, a table tennis conversion top could be the answer. They are quick to set up and fairly easy to store. Our best table tennis conversion top buying guide guide provides details of some great options for you to choose. Alternatively an outdoors ping pong table could be the answer, if you don’t have room indoors.