How to Play: Go Beyond the Backyard Basics with the Official Ping Pong Rules
· Games · How-To

How to Play: Go Beyond the Backyard Basics with the Official Ping Pong Rules

Ping pong rules! It can be serious competition, but it can also be a lot of fun. You’ve probably had a ping pong paddle in hand at one point, but do you actually know how to set up, serve, and score? If you’re interested in taking your game to the next level, keep reading for the official ping pong game rules.


Your Guide to Ping Pong Rules and Regulations


Couple in bathing suits playing ping pong under pergola, with arm holding ping pong paddle hitting ping pong ball in front of them


I know you just want to jump right in and get to the fun stuff, but it’s important to first get a basic understanding of the way the game is played.


You can either play against one competitor or in teams of two. Each player gets their own paddle to hit the ping pong ball back and forth across the table. Your goal is to keep the ball within bounds and not let it bounce twice on your side of the table.


The side of the table that is the first to reach 11 points (or 21 in some competitions) wins that game. You can judge winning based on the best out of 3, 5, or 7 games – depending on how long you want to play.


Serving the Ball


Two people in bathing suits, one holding ping pong paddle, playing ping pong


At the start of a game of Ping Pong, one player must start things off with a serve. To serve, you should throw the ball straight up into the air from a flat palm. Serve from behind the table surface and allow it to go up at least six inches (don’t worry about bringing a ruler over – your best guess is good enough).


Ideally, a serve will result in the ball making it over the net and onto your opponent’s side of the table. If, however, the ball hits the net on the way over, this is an example of a “let”. There are no point deductions for let serves. You simply replay the serve, attempting once again to get it over to your opponent’s side of the table.


At some point, either you or your opponent will miss a ball and the ball will need to be served again. One side of the table always serves twice before switching. So, for example, if you are playing one-on-one and you have the first serve, you will get to serve one more time before it is your opponent’s turn. The opposing side will then serve twice before it switches back to you again.


If your game is at a tie of 10 to 10, you will start to only serve once each side before switching until someone get a lead of two points and wins the game.


How Does Ping Pong Scoring Work?


Women in bathing suit and cover-up reaching for ping pong ball with paddle, over ping pong table


To win a point, you’ll need to get the ball to bounce on your opponent’s side of the table. They will then need to fail to hit it back onto your side of the table. You earn one point every time your opponent misses the ball or allows it to bounce more than once on their side.


If, however, your hit knocks the ball out of bounds so that it does not bounce once on your opponent’s side of the table, you will not earn a point.


You do also earn a point any time your opponent fails to serve correctly.


Scoring continues throughout the game until one side wins with a 2-point lead of at least 11 points.


What Is Not Allowed in Ping Pong?


In your own backyard, you may get accustomed to following a few house rules. In a legitimate competition though, you can’t serve over the table, there are no “do-over” serves, and the game is not won with a score of 7-0.


Even the ping pong pros make mistakes every once in a while. As far as you can help it though, you’ll also want to try to avoid touching the table with your free hand or obstructing the opponent’s view of the ball.


In the end though, if you’re just playing for fun, a few broken rules may not be too big of a deal.


Worry Less About Winning at Ping Pong


Woman in bikini with open button down shirt holding ping pong paddle and standing at ping pong table, with can of seltzer in cup holder


After all, it’s really all about the memories you make along the way. Understanding the rules of the game helps you to set off a fun day with your friends and family. But it doesn’t matter if you have a perfect ping pong game or if you walk away with a hilarious story about losing the ball in the bushes. You will have had a good time either way.


Ready to get started playing ping pong? Our outdoor Ping Pong Table is made with our trademark high-quality construction and durability, so it can endure even the toughest competition. Set it up in your outdoor space for years of fun.


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