Basic Ping Pong Rules

ping pong rules

Learn the basic ping pong rules. Also known as table tennis, ping pong is a great game for improving hand-eye coordination and reaction times.

Table tennis is a fun sport for any skill level, and it can be as intense and competitive as you'd like it to be.


Ping pong is a game for 2–4 players. The singles game is played with one player on each side of the table, and doubles is played with 2-player teams. Small paddles are used to hit a ping pong ball back and forth over a low net in such a way that your opponent is unable to return it.


To play ping pong, you need a table with a net, a paddle and a ping pong ball. Follow the links below to find them at Amazon.

Ping Pong Rules

The table is a rectangle, 5 feet wide by 9 feet long.It should be 2 1/2 feet high and no higher than 3 1/2 feet.

The table typically has a green surface with boundary lines painted in white.

A center line splits the table in half lengthwise for doubles play.

The net is 6 inches high and is mounted on posts across the center of the table.

The playing area should extend at least 5 feet on either side of the table and at least 8 feet on both ends.

Each player needs a table tennis racket, also known as a ping ping paddle. The game is played with one ping pong ball.

Ping Pong Rules

The first player or team to reach 21 points wins the game, but the winner must have at least a 2-point lead. If the score is tied at 20-20, play continues until someone scores 2 points in a row.

Match – A match can consist of 1 game, the best of 3 games, or the best of 5 games.

Order of Play

One player who is designated to be the Server by a coin toss puts the ball into play by serving the ball over the net to the Receiver. The time that the ball is in play is called a "rally."

doubles ping pongDoubles

In singles, the Server must first make a good serve, the Receiver must make a good return, and then players alternate hitting the ball back and forth until someone fails to make a good return.

In doubles, the Server serves, the Receiver returns it, the Server's partner hits it, the Receiver's partner returns it, and so on until someone fails to make a good return.

Ping Pong Rules

The ball is tossed up with the free hand only (without putting any spin on it) so that it's visible at all times.

table tennis game

As the ball comes down, it is hit with the paddle so that it first hits the Server's side of the table before going over the net.

The ball must be hit on the first attempt.

On the serve, the racket must be behind the end of the table.

In doubles, the ball must touch the right-hand half of the court on the Server's side and then the diagonally-opposite court on the Receiver's side.

Change of Service

The service passes from one player to another after every 5 points is scored.

For doubles, the service goes like this:

  • Player #1A (first server on team #1) serves to Player #2A (first server on team #2). 
  • Player #2A serves to Player #1B
  • Player #1B serves to Player #2B. 
  • Player #2B starts the rotation over by serving to Player #1A.
  • Play continues in this manner.

If the score reaches 20-20, the serving order stays the same, but each server only gets 1 serve instead of 5.

Table tennis rules continued...

Learn about USA Table Tennis and follow the Team USA Youth National Teams.

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