How to Play Ping Pong

Who does not like ping pong, right?

Ping pong is a game that gained a lot of popularity all around the world. It is, in fact, the most popular racket sport of all time, ahead of tennis and badminton. People play it with different rules, and as long as there is a paddle, and a ping pong ball, you can play it on any surface with rules you like.

There are annual tournaments where people make records of how long they can knock the ball between each other, others have separate rules. The official rules and the way ping pong should be played are different to such fun activities and we will discuss those, breaking down and making the game easier for you to understand and play!

How to Win at Ping Pong?

Winning at ping pong requires you to start at the very basics. It is crucial to develop a significant understanding of the game, after which you can start by knocking the ball around. Once you get the feel of the ball hitting the paddle, it will help you prepare to start playing. First, we need to look at the basic objective of a ping pong game.

How to Win at Ping Pong: Strategic

The objective of a ping pong game is to defeat your opponent by accumulating enough points to win more than half of the number of the maximum possible games that are played between you and your opponent. While this is an important objective, another objective you need to remember is to have fun.

Ping Pong Basics

Our main objective here is to discuss how to play ping pong and for that reason if you are a beginner, these are the basics for beginners.

Basic Rules and Objectives of the Game


The aim of the game is fairly simple. You keep returning the ball over the net onto the other side of the table and your opponent has to return it in one bounce. If your opponent misses the opportunity to return it on one bounce or completely misses the ball, then you get one point. If they return it but the ball hits the net, even then you get the point. Their return should be fair, it should bounce over the net onto your side.

What do you play to in ping pong?

You keep on repeating this sequence until one of the players accumulate 11 points to win a game. However, there must be a gap of 2 points between the two players to close out the game. That means if the score is 10-10, the player who takes the next point will not win, he will need two consecutive points to win the game. There is no regulation as to how many games a match consists of.

Ping Pong Equipment

The next question is regarding the items you need to play ping pong. So, what kind of equipment is needed to play ping pong?
You need the following items:


First of all, you need to determine a playing surface with the right ping pong table.

Table tennis is usually played on a table that is specifically designed to play the sport. It has different sizes and qualities, but generally and officially, a ping pong table is nine feet long and five feet wide. It is two and a half feet long, and it has a tabletop that has to be made out of high-quality wood to ensure bounce.

The tabletop can vary from 12mm-25mm in thickness, and the thicker the tabletop, the better the bounce. For beginners, a thickness of around 15-18mm is more than enough, but less than 15mm can be very unreliable and it is not advised. The tables can be quite heavy in size, too, especially if you are investing in a table that is approved by International Table Tennis Federation standards.

There are smaller sized tables, as well. Such tables are ideal for playing ping pong at home, especially, when you do not know much about table tennis and are starting out as a beginner. These tables are available in ¾ sizes and fun sizes, too, and can be a great way of playing among friends, especially for recreational purposes.

We suggest going for the JOOLA Inside 15mm Professional MDF Indoor Table. It is ideal for beginners and is made by one of the best table tennis brands. Another option is the STIGA Optimum 30 Table. It is on the expensive side, but a truly reliable option. You can also decide upon whether you want a table for indoor usage or one for the outdoors, so consider all things before investing.


Secondly, you require a ping pong paddle. It is also called a racket, blade, etc depending upon where you are from. A paddle is used to hit the ping pong ball. You cannot just use any wooden object because a paddle is the most important object and piece of equipment when it comes to playing ping pong.

A paddle is made of laminated wood but it has a handle connected to the blade and the blade has a layer of rubber on both sides of the blade, as well. This rubber can vary in quality and design, and that largely influences the game. That ensures if the rubber is spin-heavy or slows down the impact by bringing better control.

The paddles come in many different variations and it is better to invest in a paddle that suits your playing style in the best manner, possible. A standard sized and regular paddle should be your priority. Do not invest in a high-quality and expensive paddle, if you are a beginner, those paddles are created for pros and offer lesser control and higher spin and power, which can be very tough to control for beginners.

That is why we suggest beginners opt for the Butterfly 401. It is the best allrounder in the market and even pros use it at times because it does everything. The STIGA Titan is another quality option, but it can be a little tough to control. You have to make sure that you are comfortable with the weight of the paddle and the handle suits your playing style.


The ping pong balls are lightweight and made of plastic. Hollow from the inside, they play an important part in your playing experience. Most people seem to overlook the importance of buying the right kind of ball.

Playing with the cheaper balls is fine if you are doing it for recreational purposes, but if you want to improve your game, you should look at the proper options. The official ITTF regulations state that a ball should be spherical with a diameter of 40mm. It should not weigh more than 2.7 grams and should be made of plastic materials with a matte finish.

Most of the balls in the market are 40mm and follow the standard regulations, but people do prefer to play with 38mm balls, as well, because they offer more spin and tend to be faster. We suggest going for the heavier balls as they will be slower and bring more control, for beginners.
The best balls in the market are the Nittaku Premier 3-Star Celluloid balls. However, for beginners, we advise buying the KEVENZ 3-star Orange. For the highest quality, the Butterfly A40+ 3 star is the ideal option.

How to Serve in Ping Pong?

Serving literally starts the game. Learning how to serve is very important, and most people do not do it right, despite playing the game for years. Not to worry, we have your back!

The official ruling states that the ball must bounce first on your side before the net and then on the side of your opponent. The opponent cannot make contact with the ball before it has bounced in front of him/her, meaning half volley returns are not allowed on service. Similarly, the ball must pass over the net, cleanly, and if it does not cross cleanly, then it is considered a “let” and serve is retaken.

How to Serve in Ping Pong: The Right Execution

However, if the ball hits the net and does not go over, the point goes to the other player. No second serves are allowed. A player serves twice before switching to the opponent, and the service can be straight or diagonal in singles. Also, it is important to note that if you throw the ball up in the air to serve and do not make any contact with the ball, you lose the point!

You can watch tutorials on YouTube which can help you understand how to serve. Service has to be at a good pace with spin so that it is difficult for the opponent to pick it up and return it. A poor serve can easily result in a point lost because the opponent’s return will be harder to pick.

Types of Service

We will also discuss different types of serves. For beginners, these should be good enough as they are very commonly used.

1) Forehand Serve

This is the first service that you need to learn. It is also the most commonly used services and it involves you hold your arm so that the underside of your arm is facing the opponent. Once you do that, you hit the ball with the back side of the paddle.

2) Backhand Serve

This is quite similar to the forehand service, and the only difference is that the back of your hand is facing the opponent. The ball is struck with the same way as in the forehand serve.

3) Ghost Serve

Ghost serve is technically a backhand serve that allows the ball to bounce and then go backward. If done correctly, it can be pretty deceiving and lethal. It requires a lot of practice, but then again, it guarantees results, as well!

4) Pendulum Serve

Pendulum serve is the toughest serve among the four we are discussing. You can either move the paddle left to right, or right to left, or side to side. This allows for two different kinds of revolutions on the ball, clockwise and counter-clockwise. In addition to that, you can also get topspin on the ball, underspin, or no spin at all. The variations are aplenty, and it depends on how good you are at it and how well you can control it.

How to Practice Ping Pong Alone?

Do not have a knocking partner? Want to work on your skills and improve them so that you can surprise your friends? Don’t worry! We will discuss some ways to practice ping pong alone.

Buy a Robot

The most obvious option is buying a robot. Robots shoot balls at you at a specific time interval set by you, which is mimicking that of a real partner. It is an expensive option, so be prepared to spend big. High-end robots can cost upwards of $2000, but it is a pretty decent way of learning the craft.

How to Practice Ping Pong Alone

Use Playback Option

Many tables come with a playback option. You fold up the table and practice with it. It is not quite the ideal way of practicing but it can be very helpful, especially, for beginners. You can learn how the ball comes at your opponent and learn the game in depth.

Return Board

Buying a return board is another decent option if your table does not offer the playback option. It is a special board that bounces the ball back to the player practicing alone.

Shadow Play

One of the best ways of improving your game is by shadow playing. This is ideal if you want to improve your technique. It works best if you are using a mirror and observing your reflection.

How to get better at Ping Pong?

Getting better at ping pong can be done through many different ways.

Invest in a good paddle

Buying a paddle that suits your playing style can do you a world of good! Make sure your grip is comfortable with the paddle you are using and the rubber is ideal for your game.

Practice, practice and practice

If you want to truly know, how to be good at ping pong, then your best bet is practicing day and night. Put everything into it and remember that progress is slow. Working on technique is the best place to start.

Learn the game

A beginner is supposed to drop easier points, so make sure you do not give away freebies, in addition to that. This means learning the game and knowing your fouls. If you can learn to stay in the rally, you can start winning, too!

Watch YouTube Tutorials

YouTube tutorials can be very helpful. They can help you improve your technique and mend your playing style.

Aim for corners, stay low on net

Always aim for corners, and keep your opponent moving. If you cannot hit winning shots then your aim should be to stay in the rally and let your opponent make a mistake. The lower your ball is over the net, the more you can cramp your opponent for space.

Where can I Play Ping Pong?

You can play ping pong in many different locations. If you are content playing at home with friends on a weekend, well and good, however, if you prefer playing the sport and competing with local challengers, then you can look at nearby clubs that offer table tennis.

Clubs are a good place because you can find a variety of people that share your enthusiasm for playing the sport and you can find players of all levels. Slowly work your way up, and who knows, you will be the one to beat!

Another good option for playing in your locality is at the bar. This is for a good, fun time, with random strangers and your friends. Table sports can allow for friendships to happen, as well!

Lastly, gyms can be a very decent option, too. Gyms and clubs are for serious table tennis players, while, the option for choosing pubs and bars is for recreation and fun purposes. So, it is up to you!


Ping pong like all games tends to get competitive. So, if you want to improve your game and match the ability that your friends might have, then you should practice and improve your game. You can learn how to hit a ping pong ball, or simply how to play table tennis, by even watching YouTube tutorials.

Watching and learning improve the game as much as practice does. So, get in on the act and start watching the famous players and how they play. It will improve your game, massively, because these are the best players in the world, and you can pick one or two things from their game, like composure or patience.

In addition to learning the art, it is also important to invest in good equipment. Make sure you have a paddle that suits your playing style, a table with sufficient thickness, and of course, the right kind of ping pong balls. Apart from all this, keep practicing, practicing, and practicing!

Photo of author


Matt is founder of Pong Place and has been a table tennis addict from an early age. He had regular ping pong matches with his dad in their basement and learned how to counteract his defensive maneuvers over the years. Though he still plays, his main passion is educating others about the joys of ping pong, learning about new products and making the sport more accessible to people like you.