Ping-Pong Party

Find rules and strategies for playing Ping-Pong.
Table of contents

Ping-Pong Party

Ping-Pong, otherwise known as Table Tennis, is a relatively young game. It is unclear exactly where it has its origins, but the earliest known form of the sport was called Indoor Tennis.

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The best way to shoot the ball is to stop it, aim it, and hit it. If you try to hit the moving ball, you may wind up losing it to the other side.

Ping-Pong came to the United States in about 1900. It is believed that an Englishman named James Gibb, pocketing a handful of celluloid balls, brought the game across the Atlantic coining it “Ping-Pong” after the sound the ball makes upon hitting the table and the racket. The name “Ping-Pong” was registered in 1901 by an English sporting goods manufacturer named John Jacques, and later sold to Parker Brothers, who manufactured a new kit under the new name.

I don't think I know a single person who hasn't at least attempted a round of Ping-Pong in his or her lifetime. It's another one of those table games that winds up in a basement loaded down with old magazines and cartons.

Well, uncover the table and dust it off, because Ping-Pong is a great game when you learn how to hit that ball. With this game, I think a referee is mandatory. There is no way you'll be able to learn how to concentrate on your game if you're trying to watch for a score or a foul. In tournament Ping-Pong, the referee is actually called an umpire. Get an umpire for your games; you'll be happy you did.

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British soldiers in India and South Africa played the game in the late nineteenth century. The rackets were fashioned out of lids from cigar boxes and the rounded edges of bottle corks were used as the balls. Books lined up across the middle of the table acted as the net. This invention probably originated from a strong desire to play tennis, combined with a lack of space from being cooped up in a barracks somewhere waiting for the next battle. Perhaps this popular modern-day sport is actually the brainchild of boredom—hours of restlessness while serving one's duty of maintaining the old British Empire.

The Setup

Ping-Pong is a game that is very much like tennis, but played with a little ball and small rackets. The ball is super-lightweight and is made of a celluloid material. The table is rectangular, about nine feet in length and about five feet wide. The playing surface is usually a flat green board with white lines painted on it. A net fits low across the center of the table, dividing the two sides.

The Ping-Pong racket is a flat, rubber-matted board, usually made of a thick natural wood. It comes in many shapes, but most of the time you'll find it is square with slightly rounded edges.

The Serve

To figure out who serves first, it's best to flip a coin. In this game it is important to pay attention to the service, because, like in most racket games, it is the server who scores the point. Serving is also one of the hardest things to learn when you're just starting. The serve is definitely a learned skill. It's not hard—it just requires some hand-eye coordination.

This is how it's done: Hold your racket in your racket-hand and the ball in your free hand. Toss the ball into the air, straight-up—but not too high (six inches is about right)—and when the ball comes down from your toss, hit it downward so that it first strikes the table in your own court and then over the net and into your opponent's court.

If you're playing singles, it doesn't matter whether it strikes in your right or left court, but in doubles, upon serving the ball, it should first strike the server's right-hand court and then bounce into the receiver's right-hand court.

Now, you better practice the serve before you get involved in any real matches with people who really know how to play. If you miss the ball when it comes down after your serving toss, your opponent will score a point. However, if you hit the ball but it hits the net, you can re-serve and there is no limit on how many times you can do this. There might be a limit to your opponent's patience, but no regulation to stipulate a legal limit on this kind of bad service.

The serve that everyone dreams of making is the “crashing serve.” This is achieved through a great deal of practice because it is the fastest serve you can make. The serve happens so quickly that it almost appears as though you are hitting the ball to your racket and the ball to the table in one single maneuver. Of course, this isn't possible, but it's that fast.

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Did you know that the ball is still considered to be in play if it passes around the net and the net supports rather than over the net?

Whatever serve you decide to learn, be prepared to learn how to return them as well. Often, they are not possible to return. But if you are learning them, be assured that your opponent knows the same tactics.


Okay, so the first ball has been served—now how do you hit it back? That's the easy part—you have to return the ball so that it goes back over (or around) the net and touches down in your opponent's court. Even if the ball touches the net on its way over to you after the initial serve, it is still considered in play and you will have to hit it back.

Many times you'll find yourself face to face with a spinning ball. Balls that are spun by your opponent are often tricky to return. The best maneuver is to try to brake them by using your racket to spin them back in an opposite direction. Braking the spin is referred to as “rubbing.” You should use this technique for side- and top-spin balls that come flying at you. I know, you're thinking, how the heck will I know which direction the ball is spinning? Well, you'll learn. One of the reasons you have the pitted rubber mat glued on the racket is for friction.


Points are scored in a variety of different ways. A point is scored when …

  • A player does not make the serve.
  • An opponent fails to make a good return.
  • An opponent obstructs the ball in play.
  • The ball touches an opponent's court more than once.
  • An opponent strikes a ball twice.
  • An opponent strikes the ball with the side of the racket blade.
  • An opponent's free hand touches the playing surface while the ball is in play.
  • An umpire decides upon a penalty point against a player.
  • The ball passes over or beyond the court without touching the playing surface, after being struck by an opponent. The point goes to the player who did not strike the ball.

The first player to score 21 wins the game. If you are both tied at 20, then you have to get 2 points more than your opponent to win. This rule applies to doubles matches as well.