Regulation Rules for Ping Pong and Game Etiquette

friends playing ping pong seen from top

Ping pong is hands-down one of the most popular summer games. Whether it’s on a ping pong table in the backyard or an official arrangement, knowing the rules for ping pong is essential if you want to play to the standards.

Ping Pong Game Terminology

Pretty much like any other game, ping pong comes with its own fancy terminology. You won’t have a court like in bocce ball or corn hole though, and most of the names are simpler to understand by an unseasoned player.

  • Table: Is an actual table characterized by a flat rectangular surface measuring 108 x 60 inches and 30 inches tall. It is usually coated with a rubberized paint product, either blue or dark green. The edges are white, and the surface is divided into two equal play areas by a net placed across the table along with its width.
  • Net: Consists of the net plus net posts and clamps. It must be 6 inches tall and must stretch perfectly from one side to another.
  • Ball: A white ball with a diameter of approximately 40mm in diameter and a weight of approximately 2.7 grams. The only acceptable colors are matt white or matt orange.
  • Racket: Despite the “official” shape racket we’re all used to, the official rules say you can  use a racket of any shape, weight, and size, as long as its surface is flat and rigid. Keep in mind though that at least 85% of its surface must be made of wood.
  • Server: The player who strikes the ball first.
  • Receiver: The player who strikes the ball second.
  • Rally: A round; it defines the period in which a ball is played.
  • Let: A round in which no points are scored.
  • Point: A round in which a result is scored.

Rules for Ping Pong Game

1. Start the Game

To start the game, the players must first decide who goes first. This is usually decided by arbiters and a complicated set of rules, but in a backyard arrangement, you can simply flip a coin.

2. Play the Game

The server places the ball in the palm of the hand and throws it upwards without spinning it. You must throw it almost vertically and strike it before it touches anything. The purpose is to make the ball bounce on your side of the court and then over the net assembly to the receiver’s court.

The receiver upon being served must then strike the ball and make it return to the server’s court. A rally ends either when a player scores a point or after a certain amount of time in the case of a let.

The usual length of a rally is of 10 minutes if no player scored a point, but in a backyard, you can set your own time.

3. Scoring

Unless the rally is a let, one of the players will always score a point in the following cases:

  • The server doesn’t do a correct service
  • The receiver doesn’t make a correct return
  • If the ball touches anything other than the net assembly before being struck by the opponent after making a service or return
  • If the ball passes over the court line without touching the court after being struck by the opponent
  • If any of the players obstructs a ball
  • If a player touches the ball twice during a service or return
  • If a player strikes the ball with any part of the racket that is not made of wood
  • If a player touches the table with their hand
  • In the case of the double play, if the doubles opponent fails to respect the sequence order established during the first server and receiver play.

The game ends when one of the players has reached either 11 or 21 points, depending on what has been arranged at the beginning of the game.

A match is won by the player that won the most games and can consist of an odd number of games as established by the players at the beginning of the game.

Ping pong is usually a game for two opponents, but it can also be played in teams.

In this circumstance, each team consists of two members who sit at the same end of the table. One of the players starts as a server, and one of the two opponents in the other team becomes the first receiver by hitting the ball served.

When the ball returns to the server’s court, it must be hit by the second server, and then by the second receiver. At this moment of the return, the ball must be struck again by the first server, and the sequence above must repeat with each server and receiver maintaining their turn in the game.

If an opponent fails to do this, a point is scored by the opponent team.

Ping Pong Game Etiquette

Ping pong is all about healthy competition. Therefore players must show full respect for one another. They must shake hands at the beginning and the end of the game. Insults are also not allowed under any circumstances.

In Conclusion

Ping pong is a beautiful backyard game to keep you entertained this summer. It has simple rules and is suitable for players of all ages. While the official rules above should be respected at all times, it is also acceptable to adapt the game to fit your circumstances. Whether you decide to play by the rule or not, the goal is to have fun!