Ping Pong Rules: How to Serve/Score in Ping Pong

A lack of knowledge about table tennis rules and regulations can absolutely impact your enjoyment when you play or watch a game.

To help you fully enjoy the fun of ping pong, this article will bring you a detailed explanation of ping pong rules. And in case you’ve already got some questions about certain ping pong rules, you can directly check part 3 for quick answers.

Note that the rules are the same whether you call it ping pong or table tennis.

Basic Ping Pong Rules

Basic ping pong rules are what you have to know to start a ping pong game. Below we’ve organized the rules in the order of play.

Decide who to serve first.

In official matches, the umpire will toss a coin to decide who to serve first. You can also do it yourselves or choose your own way.

The winner has the right to choose who to serve first or which side to play first. For example, if the winner chooses to serve first or makes his opponent serve first, then his opponent has the right to choose which side to play first. Or vice versa.


To serve legally, hold the ball on your free hand and open your palm to make it visible to your opponent so that he or she can tell the spin you put on the ball.

Toss the ball straight up (at least 16 cm in height) and hit it when it falls. Make sure the ball bounces on your side first and then passes over the net to bounce on your opponent’s side.

The ball can land anywhere in singles, while in doubles, you have to serve diagonally.


During a rally, you and your opponent should alternately hit the ball.

The only thing you need to do is make the ball bounce on your opponent’s court.


Whenever your opponent fails to hit the ball after it bounces once on his or her side of the table, you score one point.

But if you fail to make the ball bounce at least once on your opponent’s side of the table, your opponent will be awarded a point.

Alternate service.

Service alternates every two points until the game ends. But after 10-10 deuce, service alternates every point.

Game Point

A game is won by being the first player to win 11 points, and be at least 2 points ahead of his or her opponent.

That is to say, if the score is 10-10, one has to continue to win two points lead to win the game.

This rule applies to almost all ball sports.

Alternate courts

After one game ends, you and your opponent should change courts and service orders.

If you’re the one who serves first in the last game, the next game should begin with the player who served second in the previous game.

Match Point

There is something special when it comes to the deciding game.

If the deciding game is also the last game, you have to change courts after the first player scores 5 points.

Other Helpful Links:

Table Tennis Rules PDF (21 points):

ITTF Handbook for Match Officials (HMO) PDF