Official Rules Of Table Tennis

Table tennis is a popular sport that is more accessible than ever with over 226 federations globally and game manufacturers creating table tennis kits that can be set up and played in the comfort of your own home.

Official Rules of Table Tennis

Table tennis is a simple game but it is important that you understand the rules to avoid any heated arguments while playing this fun indoor sport.

Official Rules Of Table Tennis


Games are played up to 11 points and a game must be won by two points. Matches are usually the best three of five games.


Serves are alternated every two points. The only time this rule is excused is when both players, or teams, reach ten points. In this case, serves alternate after each point until someone wins by two points.

Serves can land anywhere on the table during a singles game, however during a doubles match, serves must go from the server’s right court to the receiver’s right court.

Double partners swap sides so that each player serves from the right.

To perform a legal serve:

  • Stand behind the table surface, do not lean over at any stage during the serve
  • Throw the ball straight up from a flat palm.
  • Hit the ball to your opponent, following the rules for whichever type of game you are playing, singles or doubles.

The Ball

You can touch the ball with your paddle hand but not with your non-paddle hand.

The Net

If a player strikes the net when serving this is called a “let” and the serve is replayed. There is no limit on how many replays can occur after a “let” occurs.

The net can be hit during a rally and if the ball still lands as a legitimate hit the point can be won if the opponent does not return the ball.

The Honor System

Should players disagree on a certain call and if there is no referee present the honor system applies.

This is when players try to come to an agreement or replay the point.

Alternate Hitting

In doubles, partners must hit the balls during a rally in an alternating fashion, regardless of where the ball lands on the table.


Volleys are not allowed in table tennis. The ball must bounce on the table prior to returning the shot.

If you volley the ball it is an instant point for your opposition.

The Table

The net will be placed in the center of the table, stretching across the width from one side to the other.

The table has a line running lengthwise along the middle of the table, dividing it into the left court and the right court. There are also lines along the edge of the table.

The lines running along the edges of the length of the table are referred to as side lines and the lines running along the edge of the width of the table are referred to as the end lines.

Equipment Needed for Table Tennis

Balls that bounce off the end lines are still in play and if the ball is not returned it is a legitimate point for the hitting player.

The sidelines are not considered legal playing surface and so points will not be won if you bounce the ball off these lines.

Equipment Needed

Depending on where you are playing table tennis and also if it is for leisure or in a competition, there is a certain amount of equipment you will need.

Below we outline the basic equipment needed when playing in your home and when playing competitively.

Table Tennis At Home

You will need:

  • A flat surface to use as a table if you do not wish to purchase one
  • A net that can be placed on the surface acting as a table
  • 2 to 4 racquets, depending on the number of players
  • Plastic table tennis balls

Competitive Table Tennis Equipment

To play a competitive table tennis game you will need to have equipment that meets USA Table Tennis standards, these are:

  • A table tennis table with the following dimensions: 9ft long, 5ft wide, and 2.5ft high
  • A 6-inch high table tennis net
  • A 40mm+ plastic table tennis ball
  • A table tennis racquet that is black on one side and any approved color on the other side. Approved colors include blue, green, pink, purple, and red. This is a new rule that was approved in 2021.

Fun Facts!

In 2001 the table tennis scoring system was changed. Previously, games were scored up to 21 and service changed every 5 points.

Now, games are scared up to 11, and service changes every 2 points. In the event of both teams or players scoring 10 points, the game is won by whoever wins by 2 points.

Table Tennis Racquets used to be different colors but regulations were brought in to ensure racquets were red on one side and black on the other for competitive games.

These colors were found to be the best for visibility so players could always clearly see the ball.

Table tennis was invented in England in the 1880s. It was developed as an indoor version of lawn tennis, which was extremely popular at this time.

In the 1920’s table tennis was given its name after a legal dispute with the owners of the trademarked name “Ping Pong”.

Final Thoughts

Table tennis is the most popular indoor sport in the world. It is a fun game that can be played by anyone, young or old, which has led to its popularity.

Table tennis is also played at high competitive levels in competitions such as the Olympics and Paralympics.

Dave White