When you were a little kid and first laid your eyes on a ping pong table, you probably just ran over to the table, grabbed a ball and started hitting it along with your hand.
While that might make for a fun way of playing, the real table tennis game has rules that need to be followed. In this section, we cover the rules of this very popular indoor table game. There are many things to consider in this game and here we include a list of in-depth rules to make you clear on how to play the game the right way.
This list is perfect for the novice who has no idea what they’re doing, or for the established professional who needs a reminder.
A home tennis table is usually a place for some good old fashioned leisurely fun, but it can be the scene of some heated disputes as well. A common understanding of some basic rules is a good way to make sure your ping pong table is the site of more jovial sounds than irate ones.
First and foremost: This is by no means a comprehensive list of the Rules of Table Tennis as established and updated by the International Table Tennis Federation. For the complete Laws of Table Tennis handbook, consult the ITTF’s official website.
Serving and Volley Rules
- The entire table area is in play, including the edges.
- Serves may land anywhere on the opponent’s side of the table in singles play. Lines are for doubles play, during which the ball must land in the opposite quadrant of service.
- Paddles must be standard size, weight, and shape for table tennis.
- Serves must touch the server’s paddle, the server’s court, and then the opponent’s court.
- If a ball touches the net and lands in the opponent’s court, a “let” is called and the serve is repeated.
- Players serve five points and then the serve is given to the opponent for the next five.
- If the ball touches the net during play and falls into the opponent’s territory, the shot is good.
Points are awarded when:
- The server serves fails to serve the ping pong ball into a playable territory (i.e. the opponent’s court).
- Either player fails to make a successful return.
- If the ball is hit before it bounces on your side (unlike tennis).
- If the ball bounces in a player’s court twice before she/he can successfully return it.
- If you hit the ball twice without returning it to your opponent’s court.
- If either player touches the net.
- If either player touches the table with her/his free hand during play.
- If either player moves the playing surface, even inadvertently, during play.
Starting and Finishing
Determine opening serve by volleying or a coin toss. In successive games, you may choose if serve goes to the winner or loser of the previous game.
The winner is the first player to reach 11 points. A player must win by 2 points. A match usually is a best of five or best of seven series. Players decide this beforehand.
Official matches are played to 11 points in a best of seven formats.
Service is automatically given to the trailing opponent when a player reaches 10 points.
Players switch sides after each game.
Remember, these table tennis rules are hardly set in stone. They simply provide a good place to start for beginning players. Feel free to add a few rules of your own or dismiss some of these suggested ones. The important thing with ping pong house rules is that both players understand and agree to them before the match begins.
If you want to know more, you can get the table tennis handbooks at ITTF office website. The site also provides Olympic and international table tennis rules in PDF format which you can download and print out for easy reading.
Table Tennis is an indoor game that is played by hitting a light – ball over a net with the use of rackets or paddles similar to the famous game tennis. The difference between the two is that table tennis or ping pong as it is commonly called is played on a hard rectangular table with a net in the middle and uses of a smaller plastic ball and small wooden rackets.
Different Rules from Tennis
Playing the game can really look quite easy especially to anyone who is familiar with tennis. However, that’s where the similarity ends. The rules of table tennis are really quite different from that of tennis and it should be learned at heart if ever anyone wants to be good at it.
Like in any type of sport, learning the rules of table tennis starts with the familiarization of the different types of equipment that are needed in playing the game. Each type of equipment has its own specifications as specified by the International Table Tennis Federation or ITTF and is used in almost all types of table tennis games and competitions. The different types of equipment include the ball, the table, the net, and the rackets or paddles.
The next step after knowing the different types of equipment is to know how to play the game itself. Like in tennis, it is started with the use of a serve. The serving player stands at the end of the table and holds the ball with the palm of his hand.
The ball is then thrown upward over the minimum required height of 16 centimeters and then is hit in any way as long as the ball bounces once on the server’s court before going to that of the opponent’s. If the ball hits or grazes the net, it is called a let and the serve must be repeated. During service, it must always be remembered that the ball must not be hidden or obstructed from the views of the opponent and the umpire.
Knowing Further on the Rules
Once the service is good, the players must then hit the ball back and forth over the net making sure that it bounces only once on either side of the table. The net can be hit or grazed during this time as long as it bounces on the opponent’s court. The play continues until one of the players makes a mistake which results to a point. Some mistakes that can result in the awarding of points are:
- Letting the ball bounce twice on the player’s own court
- Hitting the ball twice in succession
- Not letting the ball bounce on the opponent’s court
- Placing the other hand on the table while the game is in play
- Failure in making a good serve
- Doing an illegal serve
- Touching the net with the racket or any part of the body and;
- Preventing the ball from bouncing on the player’s own court or volleying
Then players then alternate the service every two points until 11 points is reached by one of them. This is considered being the end of the game. In the event that both sides achieve ten points each, the game continues with the service alternating after every point until a two-point advantage is reached by one side.
These are the basic rules of table tennis that must be learned by anyone who is planning to play the game. Advanced rules are also added in the case of doubles or mixed games however, they can easily be learned.
Major Rules Amendment
2014 Plastic “Poly” Ball replacing Celluloid ball
Right Click to download in PDF file.
2002 Service Rule Amendments
As of 1 September 2002
2.6 A GOOD SERVE
- At the beginning of the serve, the ball should be naturally placed on the palm of the hand that is not holding the racket, and the palm needs to be open and remains still.
- The player must throw the ball vertically upwards by hand, not to rotate the ball. The ball needs to throw up to a distance by not less than 16 cm after leaving the palm of the hand that is not holding the racket, and the ball cannot touch any object before being hit.
- When the ball descends from the highest point of the throw, the player can hit the ball, so that the ball first touches the table of his own side, then crosses the net, and then touches the table of the player’s side.
- From the start of the serve, until the ball is hit, the ball should always be sent above the level and outside the player’s end line; and it should not be blocked by the player or his doubles companion’s body or any part of the clothes.
- When a player makes the serve, the referee or the deputy referee should be allowed to see if he is serving the ball in accordance with the rule.
Follow The Rules of How To Play Table Tennis
Table Tennis is such a commonplace sport that sometimes we forget that some people who are starting out don’t really know how to play the game.
The paddle you use needs to be red on one side and black on the other side. It cannot be red or black on both sides. You cannot simply use any rubber as you like as the rubber that covers each side of the paddle need to be authorized by the ITTF. If approved by the umpire, it allows you to have a few small chips or tears in the rubber.
You cannot change your racket during a match unless somehow it gets damaged so badly that it becomes unusable. You must get permission to change it if this is the case.
The top of the net must be 15.25cm above the playing surface along its entire length. Just use a ruler to double-check the measurement.
When the table tennis table is already placed in the right position, you can’t simply move the table or touch the net. You also not allowed putting your free hand anywhere on the table when you are playing.
You could take a seat on the ping pong table if you are not intended to move it! You need to always check that the brakes are on the table before playing, so you don’t accidentally move the table if you bump it.
When serve the ball, you need to ensure that the ball is always visible to your opponent, if you are hiding the ball from your opponent when you serve, it is considered foul. Therefore, the server must keep his free arm out of the way between the ball and the net.
When you toss the ball, you need to make sure that the ball is being thrown up vertically having no spin. For the standard rule, the ball needs to be tossed up no less than 16cm. After tossing the ball, you need to hit the ball on its way down, NOT on its way up!
It is considered foul if you use your fingers to hit the ball. It is also illegal for you to place your racket hand below the wrist, or any part of the racket (edge or handle).
However, in case you have your paddle dropped, you will not allow to returns the ball by hitting with your hand since it’s not your paddle hand.
Also, you can’t hit the ball twice (like with your fingers and then your racket). You can’t even throw your bat at the ball, your hand must be touching the bat when it hits the ball.
You are allowed a maximum rest time of one minute between games. You need to leave your paddle on the table tennis table except if the umpire provides you with approval to take the paddle with you. If you need to take a rest, you can call a time out for 1 minute during a match.
Due to the cause that table tennis is a high energy game, a player is simply permitted to towel off every 6 points during a match. The rule is set with the purpose of avoiding interrupting the flow of play. Let the umpire know if sweat gets on your rubber, or on your glasses lenses.
Warm-up is no longer than a two-minute practice period on the table. You are not allowed to wear a tracksuit during a match except if you are granted permission by the umpire. Nonetheless, you are allowed to wear bike shorts underneath your normal shorts, provided they are the same color.