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Table Tennis or Ping Pong?

First thing’s first.  Table Tennis is the same thing as Ping Pong.  Ping Pong is just the commercial/brand name for the game.  Originally the International Table Tennis Federation was going to be called the International Ping Pong Federation but since it was trademarked they needed to find an alternative.  Ping Pong was simply the most recognised brand at the time.  It’s still widely used and is considered synonymous with Table Tennis.  But I’m sure there are puritans who insist it’s “Table Tennis” but it’s really not worth arguing the point.  Same game, same rules. Moving on…

How Do You Play Table Tennis (Ping Pong)?

In many ways, Table Tennis is similar to a game of normal tennis, but smaller.  One of the best ways to learn how to play the game is to watch some of the excellent players on youtube.  Throughout the article, I’ve linked to some excellent videos to demonstrate the techniques, rules or scoring.  There are also some pretty neat trick shots too 🙂 Basically, it’s a points scoring game usually played 1 on 1, but can be played 2 on 2 a well.   (Unless otherwise specified I will be referring to the 1 on 1 match) Here are the rules in a nutshell: 

Basic Rules of Table Tennis

  • A match is played best out of 5 games.
  • Games are scored first to 11 points, but you must win by 2.
  • After each completed game the players switch sides.
  • Points are scored each time the ball is put into play. (This differs from squash or volleyball where you must be serving in order to win the point)
  • The entire upper surface of the table is playable area, but the sides of the table are not.
  • A coin toss is used to determine who serves first.
  • Each player serves twice in a row, and then the serve swaps to the other player.
  • A legal serve begins with the ball resting in the open palm and then tossed at least 6 inches into the air.  The ball is then hit to bounce on the server’s side, over the net, and then on the receivers side of the table.
  • A let (replay of the serve with no point awarded) is called if the serve is legal but it touches the net on the way over.
  • In singles, the serve can start at any point on the table and can be delivered to any point on the opposite side of the table.
  • In doubles, the servers on the same team take turns and must serve diagonally across the table to the opposite corner.

And that’s the basic version of the Table Tennis (Ping Pong) rules! OK, So now you know the basic rules, what are the best Table Tennis Tips & Tricks that are going to win you more games?  Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂

Basic Scoring in Table Tennis



Table Tennis Etiquette

If you’ve played any competitive sport you’re probably familiar with the majority of these “rules” of etiquette, as it’s usually just a sense of respect for the game, the players and the referee that hold true.  However, in the spirit of being specific, I will go ahead and list through some of the essentials of Table Tennis Etiquette.

  1. Obey The Rules.  This is pretty much a no-brainer, but still catches some people.  If you’re in a competition, agree on the rules before the game and stick to them.  It’s pretty rude to debate the rules part way through the game, so get it sorted before you even start.  If you’re playing casually or against kids, just remember: you’re there to have fun and practice more than to win.  So, unless you’re specifically working on improving understanding of regulations, then just let it go.  It’s just not worth it. If in doubt, check the complete and official Table Tennis Rules here:
  2. Serve Correctly.  This is an extension of the “Obey The Rules” but worth mentioning as many players try to fudge this one. Make the serve visible &  “The Serve shall start with the ball resting freely on the OPEN palm of the server’s STATIONARY free hand.” (2.06.01)
  3. Shake Hands at the end of the game.  When the game is over, it’s good manners to shake your opponent’s hand.  In addition, you should shake hands with the umpire, your opponent’s coach and your own coach.
  4. Be honest.  If a call is made in your favour that’s incorrectly called, point it out so the correction can be made.  Your integrity is worth more than the point, especially if you needed dishonesty to win it.
  5. Help each other warm up.  Remember, the match hasn’t started yet so don’t worry about “winning” the warm up.  It doesn’t matter.  There’s great advantage to seeing how your opponent plays during warm up, so let them show off their shots a bit while you defend.
  6. Apologise if you miss-hit a shot.  Even if you win the point, it’s better to win on purpose and respect the skill of the game.  It’s common to lift your index finger as acknowledgement if this occurs.
  7. Don’t celebrate a lucky point. Or if you’re a spectator, don’t cheer a lucky point.  This can upset the opposing player.
  8. Don’t celebrate too much.  It’s great to win, but being a good sport means being a bit humble about it too.  If you make a lot of noise or fist pumping when you win it can be considered being rude to your opponent.
  9. Respect your opponent’s equipment.  When inspecting their racket before the match, be sure not to put your hands on the rubber playing area as this can disrupt the surface causing it to respond differently.  Look with your eyes to see what kind of surface it is, then get on with the game.
  10. Don’t hit stuff. Hitting the table with your hands or racket is bad form and can get your game defaulted.  Same goes for other abusive behaviour like swearing, yelling, throwing things, hitting the balls away or any other similar behaviour.
  11. Call the score at the start of each game and before each point (umpire).  It’s the umpire’s job to call the score before each point in a way that’s audible to both players.  If you’re playing a casual game with no umpire, the server is to call the score before they serve stating their own score first, followed by their opponent’s.
  12. Don’t wipe your hands on the table.  It can be considered a delay tactic, but not only that, it transfers oils to the table making it dirty, and can impact the playing surface.  Your opponent will have to deal with it on the change of sides too.  Use the time given in the rules every 6 points to use a towel to dry your hands.
  13. Don’t bring equipment onto the court. Any equipment like towels or water bottles are to be kept near the umpire’s chair, well away from the area of play.
  14. Interruptions to play.  If there’s an interruption to play, a let should be called and the interruption removed before play is re-commenced.  A common example is if a ball is hit from another game into your playing area.  If you hit a ball into another game, you should wait until the let is called and the ball is returned.  Under no circumstances should you call “let” for the other game just so you can retrieve your ball.  Wait for them to complete their point.  Usually they’ll return the ball to you, but if they don’t, make sure you ask permission before entering their game space.
  15. Don’t involve spectators in decision making.  If a shot was hard to call, don’t ask spectators to contribute if they thought the ball was in or out.  The best thing to do if it’s a one off occurrence is to play a let.  If it happens frequently, then an umpire is required.
  16. Call lets immediately.  You don’t get a chance to call a let after the point has been played or the point is over.

Conclusion:  It’s not hard to use your common sense when playing Table Tennis either professionally or casually.  Respect and patience play a big part of these rules of etiquette and if you can control your emotions during the game it’ll make you a better player anyway.

Here’s a great video with some examples of how professional players behave during a match:

Table Tennis Game Play



Table Tennis Fundamentals!


Warming Up

Whenever you play sport or participate in strenuous activity of any kind you should warm up your body.  Generally speaking, it’s wise to perform whatever task you’re going to be doing, but in a slower and more controlled manner.  This way you’ll be warming up the same muscle groups you’ll be using when you perform the exercise.  The same goes for cooling down.  This lets your body transition easily from a state of high exertion to one of relaxation.  Your body will thank you in the long run as this prevents lactic acid build up which is a know cause of muscle soreness and “The Doms” (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) a few days after your exercise.

Contrary to popular belief, static stretching isn’t the best way to warm up before exercising.  As stated above, it’s important to emulate the activity you’ll be performing, so if you’ll be making frequent changes of direction, you ought to warm up those muscles involved by activating them.  That’s where dynamic stretching is important.

Your muscles and tendons can be thought of as rubber bands, or putty.  When it’s cold, they don’t stretch very well and if put under pressure they can even snap or tear.  The best way to gain flexibility in these muscles before using them is to put them under tension slowly and with control until they’re warm and “activated” enough for you to be able to perform the activity you intend.

So yes, bounce your stretches.  A good warm up for sports like table tennis is skipping.  It helps your increase your over all body temperature and heart rate, while also giving your calves and lower body a similar movement as if it were bouncing back and forth changing directions on the court.

Gentle squats, lunges and leapfrogs are another good addition to help warm up that lower body for any major movements you might perform during the game.

Upper body movements that will engage similar muscles would also be useful.  Arm swinging, trunk rotations, side bends, circle shrugs etc.  Keep your body moving and push gently to gain that elasticity needed, then step right into the warm up to focus on accuracy in your strokes.

After the game or training is complete, incorporate your static stretching to help your muscles maintain length and elasticity.

tl;dr – Dynamic stretch to warm up, static stretching to warm down.


Choosing Your Grip


Check Your Stance


How To Move – Your Footwork


The Forehand (Your Bread & Butter)


The Backhand (The Intimidator)


The Volley


Shots & Techniques



Serving Short

Serving Mid Court

Serving Deep

Adding Deception

Practicing Serves

How to Serve During a Match


Returning Serve

Reading The Spin

Handling Spin

Returning To The Best Location

How To Do The Drop Return

How To Do The Flip Return


The Loop

The Lob

The Chop

The “Push”

The Drop

The Drive

The Counter Drive

The Block

The Smash (AKA: The Kill)

Adding Spin

Side spin

Top spin

Back spin

Combining Spin


Strategies & Tactics

Beginner’s Tactics

Conventional Tactics

Service Tactics

Receiving Tactics

Rallying Tactics

Tournament Tactics

Doubles Tactics

Tall/Short Player Tactics

Playing a Southpaw

Other Playing Styles





Pimples (Long/Short)

Choosing a Table Tennis Racket

Choosing a Table Tennis Table

Finding a Table Tennis Club

Official Rules & Regulations

Official World Rankings


Comp Prep & Conditioning


Practice Schedule



Lessons & Coaching