Ping Pong Rules: A Quick & Easy Guide

Ping pong. Table tennis. Basement Wimbledon. Whatever you call it, these are the down and dirty rules for a friendly game. If it’s a more detailed look at Official Rules you’re after, check out this crazy page from the International Table Tennis Federation (it’s a real organization, we swear). For now, check out these basic ping pong rules.

Singles Game

Ignore the center line.

A match is played best of 3, 5 or 7. For more informal settings or when there are many players and only one table, players will often simply battle game by game.

A point is scored after each ball is put into play. Obviously. A legal volley consists of striking the ball over the net and bouncing it on the other side. If the ball bounces twice on the other side or once and the opposing player misses it, the person who made the initial hit scores. If the ball hits the net and goes over, that is considered in play (except for serves).

The first player to reach 11 points wins the game, unless the other person has 10 points. Games must be won by a two-point margin.

Each player serves two points in a row, then the opposing player serves two points. Once a score of 10-10 is reached in any game, then each server serves only one point, back and forth until one player wins by two points. After each game, the players switch sides.

How To Serve
The ball must be tossed in the air at least 6 inches and hit so the ball first bounces on the server’s side and then the opponent’s side. If the serve is legal, but touches the net, it’s a do-over. If the ball hits the net and does not go over, the server loses the point. If the ball bounces on the server’s side but does not bounce on the opponent’s side, the server loses the point.

Doubles Game

For simplicity, the main difference in a doubles game is that the server must serve to the player in the opposite corner of the table. After the serve is returned, most people think it can be a free-for-all of either player returning hits for his team. For more strict doubles rules, click here.