Your Ultimate Ping Pong Rules Guide: Scoring, Serving & Volleying

Ping pong is a fun game to play, and while there are some rules that we make up along the way, it is important to know what are the current official rules of ping pong and table tennis.

We take a look at all the table tennis rules, as per International Table Tennis Federation regulations, for your convenience and settlement of friendly arguments!

How to win at Ping Pong: Official Rules that Define the Game & Your Strategy

While winning requires practice, a bit of talent, and passion for the game, it is crucial to have the complete know-how of the game for the player, to avoid gifting freebies to his or her opponent. No matter what kind of ball you use.

That is why we stress the importance of learning all the official table tennis rules and regulations and playing the game as per the official rulebook, to avoid any kind of inconvenience.

There is also a belief that ping pong with proper rules and regulations is called table tennis. While, there is not much information to substantiate this claim, the official regulation authority of the game is called the International Table Tennis Federation, not the International Ping Pong Federation.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more light-hearted, check out our complete guide to Beer Pong.

Ping Pong Singles Rules: 2 Players

Table tennis rules are slightly different when it comes to singles and doubles.


In singles, you do not have to serve from one side to another. So, your service can be diagonal, straight, and from any location.

The ball must be placed behind the end line and should be tossed to a height of 16cm or 6 inches above the playing surface, at least, for the service.

The toss should be vertically upwards; it cannot be heavily to either side of the table or backward.

The ball can only be struck, when it is on the way down, on the toss. Meaning, you cannot strike the ball as it is thrown upwards for the toss.

The entire service, from the toss to the first contact with the racket, has to take place behind the end line and above the table’s surface. The players need to make sure that the balls after hitting the receiver’s court returns in the direction of the net or net post and land on the opponent’s side of the table.

The ball cannot be hidden during the entire service. This means, from the ball toss to the first contact, player cannot obstruct their opponent’s view of the ball with his or her racket, body or anything as it can make his or her opponent fails to spot the ball hits. In the same way, if the opponent obstructs your view, you are likely to get a point.

Once the ball hits, due to extreme spin, if the ball bounces on your opponent’s court, without your opponent making a touch, even, and spins back over the net assembly and falls on your own side of the table, it is a point for you.

Moreover, if your ball crosses his or her end line without touching the upper surface of the table, you gets the point.

If either the umpire or assistant umpire is unsure whether the service complies ideally to the official rules of table tennis, they have the right to pause the game and warn the server.

Serve changes after every two point lead. However, if tied at 10-10, thereafter each player serves only one point and serving players switch after every point. This way, the previous server becomes the receiver now and previous receiver becomes the server.

This 10-10 situation proves that a player or a pair subsequently gaining 2 points lead doesn’t need to always win the game. The game can be flipped at any second.

Moreover, if the situation comes when no player could score during the expedition period, in that case, the player who receives the immediately preceding rally plays the role of the server to ensure fair play and keep the game moving.

Volleying and Playing

According to table tennis rules, volleying in table tennis is not allowed. Volleying means striking the ball before you find the ball bouncing off the table surface.

The ball cannot make contact with your body, apart from your paddle hand (the hand with which you are holding the paddle). If the ball touches the server’s end line of the upper surface, server’s free arm, free hand, or any part of the player’s body, it will be a point for the other.

The game is played to 11 points and it should be won by a margin of at least two point lead.

Ping Pong Doubles Rules: 4 Players

The table tennis rules of playing doubles differ somewhat to singles.


Serve has to be diagonal, from one side of the table to another mainly to the right half court safely crossing the centre line. Make sure that each side of the table is divided equally by vertical net running parallel with end lines. The server team is selected by umpire or assistant umpire based on a coin toss or other selection processes.

At the start of the table tennis game, the serving team decides A1 will serve. The server should start by holding the ball, resting freely on the open palm of the server’s stationary free hand, toss it up and strike. This sequence should be observed:

  1. A1 to B1 (2 serves)
  2. B1 to A2 (2 serves)
  3. A2 to B2 (2 serves)
  4. B2 to A1 (2 serves)

Volleying and Playing

  • Based on table tennis rules, volleying is not allowed in doubles match, just like it is not allowed in singles.
  • A doubles pair are supposed to alternative hitting balls throughout the game regardless of which side of the table the ball lands.

Controversial Rules

You are not allowed to touch the ping pong table with your free hand based on table tennis rules. You may touch the playing surface with your paddle hand, but not with your free hand. If the table tennis table moves due to your touch on the end line or the ball touches your hand or body, it will result in a point for your opposing pair.

Similarly, if opponent’s free hand touches or anything that opponent wears move the table, you get the point. If the ball passes the horizontal edge of the playing surface, it is a legal play. However, if it strikes the vertical edge, it will not be considered as a point because the vertical edges are not part of the playing surface.

Like singles, the ball should not be hidden by the attacker or his or her doubles partner not to obstruct the opponent’s view of the ball. You are allowed to “accidentally” double-hit a ball, but deliberately double-hitting results in a lost point. If the opponent deliberately strikes the ball successfully back to you, they get the points scored.

Opponent can make movement, noise or gesture, while you are serving.

Physically challenged players can modify their playing style to accommodate their abilities in efficient ways.

You can switch your paddle from one hand to another during a game.

The ball shouldn’t be intentionally projected in service until the rally is decided as a point or a let.

What Are The Scoring Rules For Ping Pong?

Each game of ping pong is played by scoring 11 points until both players reach at 10 points. In that case, the game continues until one player takes the lead by 2 points.

If your opponent fails to make a legal return, you get the point.

In order to score a point, you need to hit the ball in such a way that the ball land at his or her court over the net without touching it.

If the player hit the ball and it lands on his or her court while touching the net in the center, the player gets a chancer to serve again without winning any point.

Each player is supposed to serve two points at a time, alternating between them. The ball must bounce on their own side of the table first and then land on the opponent’s half without touching the net.

In case the server fails to hit the ball in such a way as to miss the opponent’s side of the table or hit the net, the opponent gets a point and get a chance to serve.

Similarly, if the receiving player fails to hit the ball as a legal return, the server gets the point and gets a chance to serve again.

After scoring each point, the server switches the side of the table.

During the rally, the attacker needs to make sure that the ball rebounds on each side of the table. If it doesn’t bounce on the defensive player’s side, the server loses the point.

In case the ball hits the edge(side or baseline) of the table, the game continues.

The server can hit the ball in any direction of opponent’s side of the table.

What Are The Different Types Of Ping Pong Serves?

By understanding the variety of shots and changing the angles and their pace, players can take their game to the next level. Here are some of the most significant shots you can practice.


It is one of the most commonly used attacking shots in the game. It involves pushing the ball ahead by gliding the bottom side of the paddle at an angle of 45 degrees. The ball spins after bouncing and make it challenging for the opponent to hit it back effectively.


It is a defensive type of the shot that is commonly used to play against the opponent’s spin. Chop shot is usually played at a distance from the table. The player execute this shot by using the top side of the table tennis racket, pushing it at 45 degree angle while making a contact with lower half of the ball. This type of service can be executed by both back and forehand based on the player’s position while receiving the ball.


Block is one of those fundamental shots taught to the ping pong players while introducing them to the game. To perform this shot, a player needs to stand square to the table while holding the paddle with an open face and return the ball using the side of the paddle facing the table tennis table.

Frequently Asked Questions

We also answer some of the commonly asked questions regarding table tennis.

Does the ball have to bounce in ping pong?

Volleying is illegal in table tennis. This means that the ball has to bounce on the playing surface before you can strike it. Although, there are certain circumstances when volleying is allowed.

How many ball hits do you get in ping pong?

In ping pong, you get to serve twice and the server changes after every two points, if you are playing singles. The table tennis rules changes if it’s a deuce at 10-10, then you can only serve once and then it changes.

In doubles, each serving player serves the ball twice in their opponent’s half. Then, the doubles opponent strikes the serve twice for two points, then your partner gets to serve twice, and so on and on. In simple words, double partners are supposed to alternate hitting balls throughout the game. The ball should touch the right half-court of both the server and the defensive player.

Are there differences between USA and International table tennis rules?

The international regulatory authority of table tennis is the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The table tennis association in the USA is the United States Table Tennis Association (USATT). However, there is no difference in the ping pong rules and regulations between the two, and the USATT follows the official regulations of ITTF.

Can the table tennis ball hit the net assembly in ping pong?

Yes, during a ping pong rally, the table tennis ball can hit the net assembly and the rally will continue if it falls in the opponent’s half. However, if the ball hits the net or net post and falls on your side of the table, then it is a point for the opponent.

However, during the service, if the the served ball touches the net assembly, then it is considered a let, and the service has to be repeated.

There is also no limit to how many times you or your opponent hits the ball on the centre line on playing surface. It means you can keep on hitting the net assembly and it will not be given as a point against you. Although, it is not advised because there is a good chance that your opponent will be furious you were to keep on hitting the net on the serve.

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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.