How to Play Ping Pong?

This comprehensive guide on how to play ping pong aims to help both beginners and intermediate players progress faster!
Last updatedLast updated: November 02, 2021
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Fancy a game of ping pong? Or would you prefer to call it table tennis? What you call it really doesn’t matter; what matters is how you play it. There is a right and wrong way to play the game, which is why we wanted to show you how to play ping pong.

Ping pong was populated in England during the Victorian era, where high-class people would indulge in a game or two after dinner. However, the game wasn’t as sophisticated as we know it today. It’s thought that the game was brought back by British military officers from India where ping pong was played by stacking books in the middle of a table and using thick books to hit a golf ball.

As ping pong evolved, the fundamental aspects remained unchanged. Features that were gradually introduced to the sport include dedicated paddles, balls, and a net.

If you are relatively new to the sport or would like to enhance your skills, this article is for you. You will learn about some of the essential aspects of ping pong and how to play it well. Let’s learn how to play ping pong.

Equipment Required

There is some specific equipment you need to have a good game of ping pong. These include paddles, balls, a table, net, and proper shoes, among others. The good news is that ping pong is one of the most low-cost sports out there, and the equipment is relatively affordable. With only two paddles, a ball, a table, and a net, you are set to start.


How to Play Ping Pong?Paddles, also known as racquets or bats, are one of the essential pieces of equipment required to play ping pong. They are usually 6.5 inches long, and 6 inches wide and are covered with rubber on one or both sides. Paddles consist of four parts:

Handle – This is the part you hold. It comes in various shapes and sizes and can influence your gameplay.

Blade – This is the main part of the paddle. It features multiple layers of wood, such as korina or cypress.

Sponge layer – The sponge layer sits on top of the blade and usually measures 1.2-2.5 mm thick. A thinner layer is best if you would like better control of the ball.

Rubber – The rubber sits on top of the sponge. It is the part that comes into contact with the ping pong ball. There are various types of rubber you can use depending on your style of play.

There are three things to consider when it comes to paddles: Spin, speed, and control. Beginners should opt for a paddle with a low speed and spin rating and a high control rating. As you gain more control over the ball, you can move towards getting the best ping pong paddle for a spin to improve your game.

Our experts recommend the STIGA Pro Carbon Table Tennis Racket that is approved for tournaments and provides exceptional grip.


How to Play Ping Pong?To play ping pong, you will need a ball. A standard ping pong ball is round, small, made out of plastic, has a diameter of 40 mm, and weighs about 2.7 grams. The most common colors of ping pong balls are orange/yellow and white. Your ping pong table will determine which color to use.

The quality of ping pong balls is rated on a scale of 3 stars, with one being the lowest and three the highest. One-star balls are usually for recreational play, while three-star balls are for professional play. To determine a ball’s accuracy, bounce it from a height of twelve inches on a flat uniform surface. A good ball should bounce approximately 9.4 to 10.2 inches from the surface.


How to Play Ping Pong?The best ping pong table is made of wood, has a length of 9 feet and a width of 5 feet. It should be matt finished and uniformly dark-colored to avoid glare during play. The table’s design should be such that tapping the ball from a height of 11.8 inches achieves a uniform bounce of 9.1 inches.

While not used for professional play, steel tables are a great recreational choice, especially if you’re looking for the best outdoor ping pong table. It is best to use a wooden table and divide it using a 6-inch net.

We do appreciate, however, that not everyone has space and budget for a large professional table. A great starting point is the Joola Midsize Table Tennis Table which is made from a combination of wood, plastic, and aluminum. It’s a great starting point for those who want to play for fun.

Net – You can usually buy the net together with the table and paddles to save money if you’re starting out. It should be 6 inches wide and 6 feet long, and the width of the upper white tape should be less than 15 mm wide. A good net is easy to assemble and attach to the table.

Essentially, the above four items should come first when starting out on your ping pong journey. After covering the basics, you can invest in other accessories.

Other Useful Accessories to Check

Paddle case – It’s important to take good care of your paddles when not in use since they can easily get damaged. A paddle case protects your paddle from getting knocked, water ingress, and dust. It protects the structural integrity of your paddle and allows you to play at an optimal level.

Shoes – By shoes, we don’t mean your ordinary gym or sport shoes. You should invest in a pair of shoes designed specifically for ping pong. The right pair of shoes allow your movement to be more fluid and greatly enhances your overall play.

Ping pong robot – It’s a good idea to invest in a ping pong robot if you’d like to take your game up a notch. Ping pong robots are programmed to fire balls and are the ideal practice partner. This allows for excellent solo practice.How to Play Ping Pong?

Before You Begin

After acquiring the proper ping pong equipment, you are ready to start playing. Well, almost. Before you begin, there are some aspects of the game you need to learn, such as the correct way to hold a bat, as well as the rules. Just like other games, there are certain dos and don’ts in ping pong. Learning the fundamentals helps you make the best out of your game and rapidly enhances your skill.

Learn to Hold the Bat

Before you begin playing ping pong, it’s essential to know how to properly hold the bat or paddle. The two most common ways to grip your ping pong bat are the penhold and shakehand grip. Both these grips have pros and cons, but the shakehand is the ideal grip if you are a beginner. As you enhance your skills, you can move on to the penhold grip and other advanced ways of holding your bat.

Make Sure You Know the Rules

Ensure you know the fundamental ping pong rules before you begin to play. Ping pong rules may seem a little overwhelming at first, but with time, you will be able to get the hang of it. It’s always a good idea to ask someone at your ping pong club to explain the rules for more clarity.

Detailed Game Guide

The objective of ping pong is pretty straightforward; striking the ball over the net towards your opponent. You gain a point if your opponent is unable to return the ball (e.g., the ball hits the net, they miss the ball, or the ball misses your side of the table), or if your opponent strikes the ball before it bounces on their side.

Scoring – The first person to gain 11 points wins the game. However, at the end of the game, there must be a gap of at least 2 points between the opponents. For example, if the game reaches a score of 10-10, it goes into extra play until one player gains a 2 point lead. The point is awarded to the person who successfully ends the game, regardless of which player served the ball. A ping pong session can feature the number of games you prefer but ensure this is clear before the match starts.

Serving: singles – In this game, each player gets two serves before their opponent and vice-versa. The only exception is during extra play, where each player gets one serve at a time. There are various ways to determine who will serve first if the game goes into extra play.

You can agree with your opponent on which method to use. In singles, service can be in a straight line or diagonal.

Serving: doubles – Service is diagonal in doubles, from one player’s right half-court to the other player’s right half-court.

Serving in doubles can be described as follows:

At the beginning of the game, the team with the first serve (team A) determines which player will serve. The player who serves first is referred to as A1, and the serves can be summarized as follows:

  • Two serves from A1 to B1;
  • Two serves from B1 to A2;
  • Two serves from A2 to B2;
  • Two serves from B2 to A1;
  • Repeat the process.

Team B takes the first serve at the end of the first game and the beginning of the second game. In this case, serving follows the concept described above. There are two serves from B1 to A1. Then two serves from A1 to B2, then two serves from B2 to A1, and so on.

Doubles Alternating Rules

In doubles, the players of one team should take turns hitting the ball. This means that if A1 serves to B1, B1 returns the ball to A2, A2 returns the ball to B2, B2 returns the ball to A1, and so on.

Service Rules to Obey

The ball must bounce on your side before bouncing on the other player’s side. Before returning the ball, your opponent must ensure it bounces on their side.

The ball must pass over the net smoothly. The serve is retaken if it is a ‘let’ (the ball clips the net before going over). However, if the ball hits the net and fails to go over, the other team/player gains the point. In this case, the service is not retaken.

What Else Is Important?

How to Play Ping Pong?It’s essential to pay attention to your footwork while learning how to play table tennis. Although you can comfortably win a game against some opponents with little movement, you will have a very hard time doing so when facing a more advanced player. Good footwork allows you to position yourself better in anticipation of your opponent’s move. It also prevents you from hitting the ball from awkward positions or twisting your arm.

Stay patient when playing, and don’t be too eager to smash the ball as soon as it comes towards you. Impatience can lead to a series of mistakes. It is vital to remain calm when serving or returning the ball, as this helps you think and come up with the best move.

Improve Your Skills

Improving your ping pong skills is a process. To play at a more advanced level, you need to master skills that will develop your game. Learning to play ping pong can be likened to learning how to ride a bicycle. Before you learn to do a wheelie or ride hands-free, you must hone your peddling and steering skills. That’s why it is essential to learn the two fundamental strokes.

The terms used to describe various shots can be quite complex. It can be challenging to understand the concept until you learn how to apply various shots. The two fundamental strokes are backhand and forehand.

The backhand and forehand are the only 2 types of shots you’ll use in ping pong. All shots revolve around these two types, with varying degrees of complexity. For a right-handed person, a backhand shot would be from your left-hand side, while a forehand shot would be from your right-hand side.

It can be a bit difficult to explain this concept in words, but here is a great video that explains it in detail.

The forehand and backhand shots are fundamentals that every ping pong player needs to master before advancing to more complex shots. If you are in a ping pong club, find someone who needs some practice or is willing to help and do some drills with either forehand or backhand.

Extra Tips and Tricks to Master

You should strive for a short swing while playing ping pong. Maintaining a short and powerful swing reduces room for error and allows you to get back in position quickly. It also allows you to gain more accuracy and control over the direction of the ball.

Strive for a low return since they are more difficult to counter. Aim towards the furthest point at the edge of the other team/opponent’s table. This forces them to move from their optimal position and gives you a chance to counter.

Spin is the secret to winning a ping pong game against an opponent of any skill level. Learning how spin influences your return allows you to become better at countering. It is one of the aspects that distinguishes beginners from experienced players.

Join Ping Pong Club

How to Play Ping Pong?It is a great idea to join a club if you wish to make the most out of ping pong. The internet is a great resource to help you find ping pong clubs near you. Once you find a club that is close to your area, contact them for information about their playing hours.

Most clubs feature a large playing field and players of all ages on a regular basis. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about being too young or too old. This diversity creates the opportunity to meet and learn from people of various backgrounds, which can help improve your skills.

Playing at a ping pong club develops your skills very fast since there are so many people to practice with and learn from. The people are very friendly and always willing to practice with new members. They can also give you some feedback after playing with you and provide valuable tips and advice.

It is always a great idea to look for a more experienced player, especially if you are a beginner, because they can easily tell which areas you need to improve and teach you how to play ping pong better. Do not be intimidated to play with more experienced players, even if they are much better than you.

Ping pong clubs often host tournaments for members to participate in. These club tournaments are usually fun and exciting and attract the best ping pong players near your area. Club tournaments are a great place to meet pros and experience different playing styles.

Some players will have wild hits, crazy serves, or play in the most creative ways imaginable. If you would like to challenge yourself, you can enroll in a club tournament. The competition is quite tough, so don’t be dismayed if you do not win. With more practice and mastery, you will soon be able to compete with the best of the best.

Final Thoughts

Learning to play ping pong isn’t particularly difficult at the start, but it takes a lot of practice to master. A great aspect of ping pong is that two novices can get together and have a competitive game. You can then develop your skills over time until you know how to play ping pong like a pro.

Becoming a good player starts with finding the right equipment. The next step is learning the basics, such as how to hold a bat, as well as the fundamental table tennis rules. This puts you on the path towards developing your skills.

Hopefully, by now, you know how to play ping pong. All that’s left to do now is get the right equipment, find a partner and enjoy your new favorite sport!

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