Yellow Cards And Red Cards In Table Tennis — What Do They Mean?

Yellow Cards And Red Cards In Table Tennis — What Do They Mean

When you’re watching a game of soccer, it isn’t exactly a surprise when the ref pulls out the yellow card — or even the dreaded red. But you might not expect this kind of disciplinary tactic in a game of table tennis.

If you see someone given a yellow card in table tennis, you might be left wondering why that happened, and the kinds of consequences the player can expect.

Yellow and red cards were added to table tennis in 1991, and are used by umpires and referees to discipline players (and coaches) who’ve broken a rule, or misbehaved.

These cards can act as a warning, but too many yellow cards will give points to the opposing player. And players can also find themselves disqualified, if they fail to follow the rules.

To learn more about yellow and red cards in table tennis, read this guide. We’ve covered what happens when you receive a yellow card, the consequences of a red, and just how you can misbehave in a game of table tennis.

What’s The Difference Between The Rules And Regulations In Table Tennis?

The Rules of table tennis and the Regulations of table tennis aren’t the same, and it helps to know the difference.

The Rules, traditionally known as the Laws, are the basics of the game. These are set across competitions, and are fundamental to any table tennis competition.

The Regulations supplement the Laws, but are only mandatory for international events sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The Regulations for International Competitions is an important section of the ITTF Handbook.

Regulations may not be mandatory for non-ITTF events, but the event organizer can choose to use them.

To put it simply, the Laws (or Rules) are always in place at a table tennis competition. The Regulations are mandatory for ITTF events, but aren’t mandatory at other levels. However, higher level competitions tend to enforce the Regulations alongside the Laws.

Yellow and red cards aren’t part of the Laws, but they are part of the Regulations. Lower level competitions may choose not to use yellow and red cards.

Learn The Rules And Regulations Of Table Tennis

The ITTF Handbook explains the Regulations of the sport, including the use of yellow and red cards. It’s free to view online, and gets updated when new regulations are enforced.

What Are Yellow And Red Cards In Table Tennis?

Yellow and red cards were added to the table tennis Regulations in 1991, and are used in international competition. The yellow and red cards are used by the umpire to discipline a player or coach during a match or tournament. The referees can also use the red card.

A yellow card is given when a player misbehaves during a competition, or receives additional coaching in the course of a match. Rule 3.05 in the ITTF Laws outlines the circumstances in which a yellow or red card can be given.

The first yellow card given is a warning, and the player or coach suffers no immediate consequences. They may have already been verbally warned at this point, with the yellow card acting as a further warning, and a notable disciplinary.

However, a second warning will result in a yellow and red card. The effect of the red card varies depending on who committed the offense (player or coach).

If the misbehavior continues, the match will be suspended.

Yellow and red cards aren’t hugely common in table tennis, but they do happen from time to time. The cards were introduced to ensure there was a simple and effective way to deal with trouble, without needing to stop play.

When Is A Yellow Card Given In Table Tennis?

A yellow card in table tennis is given for coaches giving advice when they aren’t allowed, and misbehavior.

These terms can seem pretty generic, so we’ll go into more detail below.


A game of table tennis can move at a breakneck speed, with tempers sometimes flying as high as the balls.

With medals and prizes at stake, both players and coaches can misbehave.

If a players’ behavior goes against the rules and regulations, then they may be given a warning with a yellow card. If they continue to misbehave, then a red card will be given, and a point is awarded to the opposing player.

Misbehavior is categorized as behavior that may “unfairly affect an opponent, offend spectators or bring this sport into disrepute” (from the ITTF Handbook).

Examples of misbehavior include abusive language, deliberately breaking the ball, deliberately hitting the ball out of the playing area, kicking or lifting the table, kicking the surrounds, or disrespecting the match official.

An umpire will hold up a yellow card as a warning, and to indicate that further poor behavior will not be tolerated.

Yellow cards are typically given for offenses that are less serious. If a player or coach has committed a serious infraction, the umpire can suspend play, and speak to a referee.

Should a player commit a second offense, they are given a yellow and a red card, and the opposing player is awarded one point. A third offense will be given a red and yellow card, and two points are awarded to an opposing player. Any further offenses will cause the match to be suspended.

It isn’t just players who can misbehave. If a coach is misbehaving, they will be given a yellow card in warning. A second offense will receive a red card, and the coach has to leave the playing area.

Extra Coaching

As well as misbehavior, a yellow card can be given if a coach gives advice to players during a rally.

For the most part, coaches are allowed to give advice at any point during a match. However, they can’t give advice during a rally. Doing so would result in a yellow card. They also can’t give advice at a moment that would disrupt the flow of play. This would also earn the coach a yellow card.

If a coach with a yellow card gives advice illegally twice during the same match, the umpire will show them a red card. The coach then has to leave the playing area, and they aren’t allowed to return.

During a team match, the regulations are slightly different. Multiple coaches can be allowed on the playing area at the same time, and yellow cards are issued to the entire team.

After the first warning, any authorized person from the same team is at risk of a red card, regardless of whether they committed the prior offense. Although, only the coach who received the second warning is dismissed.

In a team match, the dismissed coach is not allowed to return, unless they’re required to play. They also can’t be replaced with another advisor.

In the rare circumstance that a coach refuses to leave, then the game is suspended, and the umpire can report to the referee.

Coaches have to be authorized to give advice while in the playing area. If an unauthorized person advises a player, they will be given a red card, and sent away from the game.

These rules are to prevent the disruption to the flow of play. Previous regulations stated that advice could only be given during intervals or other moments where play was suspended. However, the regulation was amended in 2016 to allow for advice at any point outside of rallies, as long as continuity wasn’t affected.

What About Doubles Table Tennis?

Misbehavior and illegal coaching can also result in a yellow or red card in doubles table tennis. However, there is a slight difference to the rules. A penalty is given to the pair.

If either player misbehaves, both will receive the same penalty. But if they’re playing in a team match, in a following individual match the warning card only applies to the player who committed the offense.

If the non-offending player is in an individual match for the same team, they won’t have to carry the penalty.

These are the reasons why a player may receive a red or yellow card during a match. But what else do the Regulations say about yellow cards?

Do Yellow Cards In Table Tennis Have A Time Limit?

Do Yellow Cards In Table Tennis Have A Time Limit

Yellow cards don’t have a time limit, and they remain in place for the entirety of the match. So, if a player receives a yellow card warning at the start of the first game, they have to be very careful through all the subsequent games.

When an umpire shows a player a yellow card, a yellow marker is then placed on the scoreboard. The marker is placed near the score of the offending player, to indicate the warning.

If that player continues to misbehave, and receives a second warning, a yellow and red marker will be added to the scoreboard.

Throughout the match, these markers will remain in place. They won’t be removed at the end of a game.

In a team match, these warnings will continue into the player’s subsequent matches. If a player received a warning in a doubles match during a team match, only the offending partner carries the penalty forward.

Because the yellow cards remain on the scoreboard, things can get a little confusing.

Sometimes, a penalty point is awarded after the game has ended. In this case, the points will be transferred into the next game in the match. So, if you ever see a player start the game with 1 or 2 points, it might be because the opposing player was given a penalty.

Further, sometimes a player will be given a two point penalty, when the opposing player only needs a single point to win. This spare point is considered “unused”, and will transfer over to the next game of the match.

If the match has finished, then unused points are ignored.

Once the first warning yellow card has been given, all subsequent warnings must result in a penalty point.

Umpires will keep a record during team and individual matches of who has received a penalty. As well as tracking which penalties need to be moved forward, it also helps an umpire to identify players with consistently poor behavior.

Learn More About Table Tennis Rules And Regulations

Visit the ITTF website to keep up to date with all the latest rules and regulations in International table tennis. And don’t forget to read their handbook!

Table Tennis: Steps To Success By Richard McAfee

If you’re interested in improving your own playing, try Table Tennis: Steps to Success by Richard McAfee. It can help you avoid those tricky yellow cards, as well as master your serve.

Yellow Cards In Doubles Table Tennis

The penalty point rules are fairly easy to understand for singles table tennis, but things can get a lot more confusing when it comes to doubles. As mentioned above, in a singles match, the yellow cards carry over to the next singles match.

But how does that work in a team match? And do points carry if you play both individuals and doubles in a team match?

Doubles players carry their yellow cards forward with them, and the cards from each individual are counted for the pair. So, if both players are already carrying yellow cards, they start the match on some shaky ground.

If one player has a yellow card warning, and the other has two yellow card warnings, then the next warning will result in a two point penalty.

However, in the next individual match, each player only carries their individual warnings forward. So, if one of the pair misbehaves during the doubles match, the pair will receive a yellow warning. But in the next individual match, only the offending player has the penalty.

Disqualifying Players (And Coaches)

While the umpire is the one who hands out red and yellow penalties, the referee can also play a significant role. If a referee holds up the red card to a player, then that player is disqualified from the match, and potentially from the tournament.

In cases of serious misbehavior, even repeated penalties may not seem like enough punishment. When a player is continuously disrupting play, and the warnings aren’t working, they will have to forfeit the match.

Repeated misbehavior can get a player disqualified from an entire tournament. If a player receives a red card from the umpire in two matches, they will be disqualified, and can’t play any other matches that tournament.

As well as losing the chance to win, a disqualified player has to forfeit any winnings they may have for the competition. That could mean a medal placement, money, or even ranking points.

So, if the player battling in the gold medal match is disqualified, they won’t be knocked down to silver — they’ll be knocked out entirely.

Red cards can also be given to coaches and advisors. If a coach is giving advice illegally (during a rally, for example), then they may receive a yellow card. If they do so again, the umpire can show them a red card, and the coach is asked to leave the playing area.

An umpire doesn’t need to have reported an offense for the referee to decide on disqualification.

If a referee believes the coach or advisor is acting inappropriately, then a red card may be shown. The offending coach will then have to leave.

This can seem like a pretty harsh punishment, but it only happens in very rare circumstances, and instances of serious misbehavior.

Can Referees Use Discretion?

Deciding between what behavior deserves a warning, what requires disqualification, and what can be overlooked, isn’t always easy. Because of this, a referee is allowed to use discretion when deciding on the severity of the punishment.

If the referee decides the behavior doesn’t merit disqualification, they can report the offense to the ITTF Integrity Unit instead.

When a player breaches regulations in a way that merits disqualification, the referee has to send a report detailing the offense to the player’s National Association.

A disqualification only extends to the single competition. However, that may not be the end of the punishment. The National Association that the offending player belongs to may decide to impose their own punishment. This may mean the player is banned from tournaments for a set period of time.

Players who’ve been disqualified from matches have sometimes found themselves temporarily suspended from national teams and international competition.

What Is A White Card In Table Tennis?

While yellow and red cards are used to indicate warnings and penalties, a white card is simply used to indicate a time-out.

If you see an umpire waving a white card, it isn’t a sign that someone is about to receive a serious penalty. Instead, a white card is used to show which side requested the time-out. A signboard will then be placed on the court, on the side of the player who asked for the break.

Any player, or member of a doubles team, can request a time-out. Authorized coaches and advisors can also ask for a time-out. Each team can claim a time-out period of one minute during each match.

So, while the yellow and red cards indicate misbehavior, a white card is fairly innocuous.

Find Out More About Table Tennis Yellow Cards

Find Out More About Table Tennis Yellow Cards

Yellow cards and red cards aren’t hugely common in table tennis, but they do happen from time to time. They’re an important tool used to ensure that the game continues smoothly, and play isn’t interrupted.

Table Tennis Tactics For Thinkers By Larry Hodges

Larry Hodges’ book on table tennis tactics is a fantastic resource for learning more about the mental side of the game, and using tactics for a win.

It’s a useful resource for any table tennis player, but especially for players who may find themselves on the wrong end of a yellow card all too often.

By encouraging tactical and strategic development, hot headed players can approach the game from a new angle.

Learn The Rules And Regulations From The ITTF

The ITTF Handbook is a free and useful resource for anyone interested in learning the rules of international table tennis.

The Handbook is regularly updated with the latest rules and regulations regarding the sport, including just what might earn a player a yellow or red card.

What Are The Rules And Regulations For Table Tennis?

The Rules, otherwise known as the Laws, are the basics of table tennis. All sanctioned competitions must follow these rules, and beginners should familiarize themselves with the essentials of play.

Regulations are slightly different, and are set by the ITTF. These Regulations must be followed at all international ITTF competitions.

However, they aren’t mandatory at other levels of competition. It’s at the discretion of the organizers which Regulations are in place.

What Are The Laws Of Table Tennis?

The Laws are the very basics of table tennis. These refer to the fundamentals of the game, and are followed across all levels of competition. Even beginner competitors should understand the Laws of table tennis.

When Are Table Tennis Regulations Used?

Table tennis Regulations are only mandatory at ITTF International competitions. However, they can be used at all levels of competition, and many organizers choose to follow the regulations.

For players who intend to compete internationally, it helps to have the same Regulations in place at all levels. Generally, the higher the level of competition, the more Regulations that are in place.

Yellow And Red Cards

Yellow cards and red cards are covered in the Regulations set forth by the ITTF. A yellow card acts as a warning, while the red card is given as a penalty.

Red cards can lead to eventual disqualification. Yellow and red cards are carried through a match, but have no further effects.

Coaches can also receive a yellow card as a warning for illegal coaching. If they need to be warned again, the coach is asked to leave.


Take a look at the ITTF Handbook to learn exactly what the current regulations regarding yellow cards are, and what kind of behaviors may earn a dreaded penalty.

Dave White