How to Play Table Tennis for Beginners

Looking to get started with Table Tennis?

This beginner-friendly guide on ‘How to Play Ping Pong’ should come in handy.

Although, the basics are the same, there are a few differences between the two. Up until a few years ago, Table Tennis and Ping Pong were the same sport.

If you’re just starting out, this guide will get you up to speed with the game.

Rules of Table Tennis (Ping Pong)

Before we go ahead and introduce the gear/equipment you will need, it’s important to understand the rules of the game.

The rules are very simple. In a nutshell:

  • One person will serve the ball.
  • One person will receive the ball.

This quick YouTube video does the job of explaining the rules very well:

Equipment

Table Tennis is a simple sport, and unlike most games, it doesn’t require you to invest in dozens of things.

The equipment list is pretty short. This is all you need:

  1. A Table Tennis table
  2. Ping Pong Balls
  3. A set of Table Tennis paddles
Most sports require you to invest in gear all the time, but TT is an exception. It’s a simple indoor game, and can be played between two players (minimum).

Table Tennis Table

An investment in a good Ping Pong table is the only significant investment that you’ll have to make.

A competition-standard table can cost anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars depending on what your requirements are.

Even though buying a table is optional as most sports clubs have some, having your own table never hurts as it’s usually a one-time purchase.

Our Top 3 Table Tennis Table Picks (Amazon):

  1. JOOLA Inside
  2. STIGA Advantage Competition
  3. JOOLA NOVA

It’s also possible to get table tennis conversion tops that sit on top of other tables. With these, you can enjoy Ping Pong with your existing tables.

These aren’t real tables but if you’re looking to save some space, this might do the trick.

Ping Pong Balls

These are lightweight plastic balls that you need to play the game.

These come in Orange and White colors, and the 40mm size is the industry standard.

A star-system is used to rate the quality of the balls between 1-3. If you’re just starting out, a 1-star ball will be good enough for recreational play.

However, if you’re looking to compete, a 3-star competition-grade ball is what you may want to purchase.

Our Top Budget Pick (Amazon)KEVENZ 60-Pack 3 Star Ping Pong Balls

Also Check: The 5 Best Table Tennis Balls

Table Tennis Paddles

A Table Tennis paddle or a Ping Pong paddle or simply a bat/racquet as some call it is the last piece of equipment in the list.

You’re supposed to strike the ball with the bat/paddle once it reaches you. 

A table tennis paddle is composed of four parts:

  • Blade – main part of the bat made out of multiple layers of wood.
  • Sponge – A 1.5-2.5mm layer of sponge sits on the blade. This plays a role in imparting spin to the ball, and as a general rule of thumb, grab one with a thin layer if you’re new to the sport.
  • Handle – this comes in different variants, and you’ll want to pick one that best suits your playing style.
  • Rubber – A layer of rubber sits on the sponge which makes it the exterior of the table tennis bat. There are different types of rubber available, pick one that suits your style of play.

With a Table Tennis racquet, you want to look out for three things: control, speed and spin.

If you’re a beginner or are at an intermediate-level, aim for a better control. Once you get better at the game, consider a paddle that’s known for speed and spin.

With the higher-end blades, it’s often a tradeoff between speed/spin and control.

Our Top 3 Table Tennis Racquet Picks (Amazon):

Other considerations:

Carry case: Table tennis racquets are usually fragile and as a result, you may want to invest in an inexpensive paddle case/pouch to store them.

Recommended carry case for two racquets (Amazon): Killerspin Barracuda

Table Tennis Robots: These can come in handy if you’re looking for a partner with whom you can practice.

It will continue to throw balls at you in specific areas without fail, and for as much/as little time as you like. 

Recommended Robot (Amazon): iPong Original

Holding a Table Tennis Bat

Once you have the equipment ready, why not put it to use?

Table Tennis Grips

With a table tennis paddle (or bat/racquet depending on where you live), there are a few ways to grip it:

  • Shakehand grip
  • Penhold grip
You may want to stick to a grip that you’re more comfortable with. For most players, a shakehand grip is recommended as it offers greater control.

Serve Rules

To perform a legal Table Tennis serve, take note of the following rules:

  • Start the serve with the ball in an open palm –  This is to prevent players from imparting spin to the ball before the serve while it’s being tossed in the air.
  • Throw the ball up in the air for at least six inches – This is to prevent deception that may ensue after a quick serve. This also prevents cases where the ball is/may appear hidden.
  • Serve the ball behind the end line of the table – This is to make sure no player gains an unfair advantage by getting closer to the nets.
  • The ball – After making contact, the ball must bounce on your side of the table, then to the opposite side of the table once it bounces over the net.

Playing a Match

If you’re up for a match, you’ll have to play a series of games with your opponent – this is usually 3-5 games in a row in a club enviroment.

The person with more wins will be declared the winner after the 5 games. With a single game, the person scoring the 11 points first is the winner.

There should at least be a difference of 2 points at the time the winner gets to 11. If not, the game shall continue after a deuce (10-10).

After a deuce, if you score a point, it will be 11-10. To determine the winner, the score must get to 12-10. 

If the opponent scores a point, it will be back to deuce – in this case, 11-10, and the winner must get to 13-10.

Each player gets to do two serves in a row, and then it will be the opponent’s turn. There’s no hard & fast rule as to who begins the serve, though.

This may be determined at random or with a coin toss. After a game is complete, players switch sides but the serve side remains the same.

Final Words & Conclusion

That brings us to the conclusion of this brief beginner-friendly guide on how to play ping pong or Table Tennis depending on what you like to call it!

Do you have experience with the game? What’s your favorite piece of gear?

Or did we miss anything?

Either way, let us know by leaving a quick comment down below.

These are just the basics of the game, and to get better at the sport, you need to go out and try your hand.

As with anything else, practice makes perfect!