Table Tennis vs Ping Pong – What’s the Difference

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As an avid ping pong player I always thought that Table Tennis was just the formal term for Ping Pong. Come to find out, this was not the case. Though very similar Table Tennis and Ping Pong are two different games all together.

So are what is the difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong? 

Table tennis and ping pong originally referred to the same game. Nowadays, they are considered two different sports. The two sports have different rules and equipment. Because of this Table Tennis is usually a faster speed game that involves more spin.

In general, table ping pong relates to garage hobby players, while Table Tennis is used by players formally trained in the sport. Table Tennis also happens to be a registered Olympic sport whereas ping pong is not.

The reason why the two are differently named is because Ping Pong is trademarked in 1901 by John Jacques in England, where eventually the rights were sold to the Parker Brothers. They promoted the game as Ping Pong in the US. There is  a the World Championship of Ping Pong takes places every year in England. Ping pong is still a federally registered trademark in the USA.

Because of the trademark, table tennis has its own organizers known as the International Table Tennis Federation. They also organize the annual The World of Table Tennis Championship.

Over the years each organizing group started to customize the rules to their own organization, therefore creating two different games. Ping pong and table tennis are very similar but have different rules, equipment, and scoring.

Often people do use the two terms interchangeably and recreationally you can use both terms. But for serious Table Tennis players that are looking to play in competition, it is helpful to know the specific differences between Table Tennis and Ping Pong.

How are Table Tennis and Ping Pong Paddles different?  

In table tennis there is no limit to the type of blade that a player wants to use. So in a tournament players can have a variety of table tennis paddles. Each person have their own customized paddle with some specification of similar qualities in a particular size.

In ping pong, all players use the same equipment, blue sandpaper paddles. The sandpaper surface limits the spin potential of the ball. Because of this table tennis is a faster pace game with a higher amount of spin.

Due to the difference Table tennis generally is a faster pace game with higher amount of spin on balls. The speed difference means that Table Tennis has an offensive and defensive style of playing where as in ping pong you can mix both playing styles in a game.

Are there certain things allowed in Ping Pong that is not allowed in Table Tennis?  

In table tennis the ball must bounce on one side of the table before struck. Volleying is not allowed. In ping pong, this is sometimes allowed.

How do you serve in table tennis and ping pong? 

In table tennis the ball is required to be thrown more than six inch upward from an open hand and hit from behind the table’s baseline when serving. In table tennis you can only serve the ball one way However, in less formal ping pong games, your serve may be hit straight out of hand or following a bounce on the table.

How do you keep points in Table Tennis and Ping Pong? 

In table tennis the score ends at 11 points with a difference of at least 2 points between the two players. So something like 11-9 has a winner and the game and is a final score but a score of 11-10 means that you have to play until there is a two point difference. There’s an odd number of games per match and usually the best of 5-7 games per match determines the winner.

In Ping Pong the score ends at 15. The first person to reach 15 wins. So 15-14 and 15-1 can be the final score. There’s a special double point ball that can be used once per match when serving. It give 2 points to the serving player if one, and 1 point to the receiving player. All matches in the World Championship are the best of three games, with each game ending in a race to 15 point, except in the semi-finals which and the final game. In the semi-finals and the final game the winner is the one that wins best of five sets. 

Are table tennis and ping pong balls the same size? 

No table tennis ball and ping pong balls are not the same size. Official ping pong balls are a bit larger than table tennis balls. Ping Pong balls are 3.7mm in diameter while table tennis balls are 3.4 mm in diameter.


How many serves do each player get in Table Tennis? 

Each player gets 2 serves, then you alternate until one player scores 11 points. Unless there is a deuce (10:10). In that case each player gets one serve and alternates until someone gets a two point lead.

Do I have to serve diagonally in Table Tennis?

Depends on if you are playing singles or doubles. If you are playing in a singles match you need to hit the ball so it passes the net and hits the opponent’s half of the table. If you are playing doubles, you need to hit the ball on the right field of the opponent’s half.

Can you volley a ball in table tennis? 

No, you cannot volley a ball in table tennis. It is illegal. A volley also known as “obstruction” happens when you hit a ball that has not bounced on the table.

Where do I need to stand during a table tennis serve? 

If you are serving then you need to stand behind the end line of the table. The ball needs to remain behind the end of the line to start the serve. The ball needs to be visible and above the surface of the table. The opponent of the server can stand wherever they think is ok. It is legal to serve from way outside the sidelines as long as the ball remains behind the endline at the start of the serve.

Which countries table tennis most popular? 

Base on tournaments and recent champions of the sport, Table tennis is very popular with a variety of countries.  China table tennis players have dominated world championships competitions for over 50 years.  Korea is also crazy about table tennis. Ever since a double team won the World Championship in 1989, Germany is also where table tennis is super popular. Lastly Sweden love table tennis. Sweden is home to the global table tennis company STIGA.

What happens if I touch the table tennis table? 

If a player touches the table surface with their free hand, the one that is not holding the paddle. Then the opponent will be awarded a automatic point. This rule also applies if the player moves the table with anything they are wearing or carrying.

How long is a table tennis match? 

A match can be best of any odd number of games 3, 5, 7. But most people play 5 games.

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