Table Tennis: Official Ping Pong Rules

Ping pong has become more popular worldwide since it was made an Olympic sport in 1988. Partly because it’s a sport we can play at any age. So it’s about time you learn the ping pong rules.

Setting the Rules

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the worldwide governing body for competitive table tennis. Individual countries and international unions have their own governing organizations as well, such as the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU).

These organizations typically set rules for things like gameplay, scoring, and player rakings in accordance with the ITTF. So the rules outlined here are in line with most all of the official table tennis organizations.


A table tennis match is usually a 5 game series, ending as soon as one of the players wins 3 games. However, a match can also be played to the best 2 out of 3 games, or the best 4 of 7 games.

A game is always played to 11 (with a win by 2 rule). The first player to get 11 points wins, as long as they win by 2 points or more. So if the score reaches 11-10, the game continues until one player has a 2 point lead.

A point is scored each time the ball is put into play (not just when the server scores as in volleyball).

The Game Play

During the game, each player serves twice in a row and then the server switches. The exception is when a score of 10-10 is reached. In that case the serve switches after each point.

The Serve

The ball must be held on an open palm and tossed up at least 6 inches above the hand. Then the ball is struck so that it first bounces on the server’s side and then bounces on the opponent’s side of the table.

If the serve is legal but touches the net it’s called a “let.” This means that the serve is done over without a point being scored. The other way a let occurs is when the ball hits the edge of the opponent’s side and bounces off it in a downward angle.

This same kind of edge shot can occur during the rally as well as the serve. In rare circumstances, it can be difficult to determine if the ball hit the edge of the top of the table (in play) or the verticle side of the table (out of play).

This is just one reason why there are umpires and assistance umpires in official play. Without an umpire to make the call, you’ll just have to do your best to determine the flight path of the ball when it was returned.


The paddle must have one red side and one black side. The ball is either orange or white and the players’ clothing must be a different color from the ball.

The table is 2.74 meters long by 1.525 meters wide, and 0.76 meters high.

Ping Pong Rules and More

Following these guidelines, you’re ready to play by the official ping pong rules.

But to play at the top of your game, you’ll also need the right equipment. So, check out the best accessories for the game.