basic table tennis rules

13 simplified Rules for Table Tennis

Table tennis is a competitive game – so that you don’t have to discuss every point, there are rules defined by according to which the game is played. The official rules for table tennis (called the Laws of Table Tennis) may sound too complex when you start to read and understand them – especially applying them during a rally. Here we collected and simplified all the rules which are needed for beginners or amateur ping pong players.

Basic rules for ping pong

1. Players draw lots to choose serve or side

One player holds the ball under the table on one side, the other player chooses. Afterwards, the winner of the lottery ticket has the choice between serve, return, side of the game or leaves his opponent the free choice.

2. The player can serve five times in a row

3. Whoever has 11 points first, has won a set

The only exception is when it comes to 10:10. The winner of the set is then the one who has a two-point lead at first.

4. The winner of the game is who first wins two sets

5. A correct serve is done with open palm

When you serve, the ball is placed on the palm of the free hand. This hand must be behind the baseline or behind the imaginary extension of the table’s baseline, and it must be above the playing surface. Then the ball is thrown up almost vertically and hit by the bat in the falling phase; first on your own half of the table, then on the opponent’s half as well.

6. A serve must be repeated if the ball touches the net (Let)  

7. Points are awarded when your opponent fails to return the ball

Points are awarded to a player if his opponent

  1. makes a wrong serve
  2. cannot hit the ball back
  3. hits the ball into the net
  4. moves the table
  5. touches the net or the net post with the body
  6. cannot place the ball on the opponent’s half of the table
  7. makes the ball bounce twice in its half
  8. play the ball in such a way that it touches an object in flight (ceiling of the room, lamp)
  9. accepts the ball with the racket, even though he has not touched his own half of the table
  10. touches the table with the free hand

8. Stopping a flying ball (volley) is not allowed

9. Unintentional touching of the ball with your racket hand is allowed

10. Forbidden to touch the table with your free hand

You can unintentionally touch the table with your racket hand during a rally but If the table moves from any kind of touch it is point to your opponent

11. Doubles server should play the ball diagonally

The server must play the ball from the right side of his own half of the table diagonally into the right side of the receiver. The ball may touch the center line.

12. Doubles serve receiving person is always rotated

At the beginning of each set, the pair that serves the first five serves decides which of the two players serves first. The opposing pair then decides who will receive. In the following sets, the receiver is changed within the pair as in the previous set.

Note that in the deciding set of a game, the pair that hits back must change their order when changing sides.

13. Pairs in doubles take turns at hitting the ball during a rally

If you need more detailed explanation you can read it in our Rules for Table Tennis article.