Rules and how to play

Learn the basic rules of the game, how to score and the tricky doubles rotation!

Just starting out in table tennis?

The aim of the game is simple; hit the ball over the net onto your opponent’s side. The ball should bounce once on the opponent’s side of the table. A point is won by you if your opponent is unable to return the ball or if they hit the ball before it bounces on their side of the table (unless the ball has already cleared the table).

  • Winner is the first to 11 points
  • If the score is 10-10, them game continues until one of the players has gained a lead of 2 points
  • Points are won irrespective of who has served
  • Matches can the best of 3, 5 or 7 games – or any odd number you like!
  • The ball must first bounce on your side and then on your opponent’s side of the table
  • If the ball touches the net and goes over, it’s a ‘let’ – retake the serve
  • If the ball hits the net and doesn’t go over, or flies off the table without bouncing on your opponents side, you lose the point
  • There are no second serves
  • The ball should rest freely on the open palm of the server, above the level of the table
  • The ball should be projected vertically (at least 16cm)
  • In singles you can serve from anywhere and to anywhere on the table
  • Change servers every 2 points
  • If the score reaches 10-10 change server every point

Service must be diagonal, from the right half court (marked by a white line) to the opponent’s right half court.

Service changeover in doubles is as follows:

At the start of a game, the serving team will decide which player will serve first. The first player to serve is A1 and;

A1 serves to B1 (2 services)

B1 then serves to A2 (2 services)

A2 then serves to B2 (2 services)

B2 serves to A1 2 services)


At the end of game 1 and the start of game 2, team B will take the first serve; they can choose which of them will serve first.

Eg: B1 will serve to A1.  A1 then serves to B2 and so on.


B2 will serve to A2. A2 then serves to B1 and so on.

In doubles, you should alternate hitting the ball with your partner. So, for example,

A1 serves the ball to B1

B1 plays to A2

A2 plays to B2

B2 plays to A1

then this is repeated

A1 plays to B1 ….and so on.

Ping Pong Pointers

Our film series give a visual explanation of how to hold the bat, basic shots as well as the doubles rotation format.

How to hold the bat
How to serve

How to play doubles
How to play a forehand drive
How to play a backhand drive

Looking for the official laws of table tennis?

For more in-depth information on the rules (laws) of table tennis and the regulations governing the sport internationally and domestically, visit our regulations section.