Basic Table Tennis Rules
- Matches are best of any odd number of games (3 out of 5, 4 out of 7; etc.) This must be determined before play begins.
- Games are played to 11 points (NOT 21).
- Rackets must have one red side and one black side, unless the same material is being used on both sides (such as a hardbat).
- After deciding the serve, each player will serve TWO points each.
- At 10-10, the score is called "Deuce". A player must then win by 2 points. Alternate serves until one player has a 2-point lead.
- No sneaky serves. The ball must be visible to the opponent at all times. Toss the ball up at least 6 inches and hit it as it falls - from BEHIND the end line and ABOVE table level.
- Table Tennis is NOT Tennis. No second chance serves.
- If a player serves a net ball (called a “let serve”), the point is replayed. In order for it to be a let ball, the ball must hit the server’s side of the table, hit the net, and then hit the receiver’s side of the table. (There are no limits to the number of let serves a player may serve.)
- The server in singles can serve anywhere: short, long, straight, or cross-court. Only in doubles do you have to serve diagonally from your right court to the opponent's right court.
- If you volley the ball (not allowing it to hit your side of the table) while it is still above the table surface, you lose the point.
- A return rebounding off the hand or any part of the racket is still in play, but a return hitting BOTH hand and racket is out of play. And a return by a hand with no racket, or a racket not in hand, is no good.
- If you move the table, or touch it with your free hand, during the rally, you lose the point.
- If a you or your clothing touches the net or post during the rally, you lose the point.
- If you hit the ball twice in succession, you lose the point.
- If your shot hits a wall, the ceiling, or misses the opponent's side of the table, you lose the point.
- If the ball hits the top edge of the table it is good, but it may not hit the side of the table.
- Change ends of the table after each game.
- The player who serves at the beginning of a game is the receiver at the beginning of the next game.
- After the first player scores the 5th point in the final game of the match, change ends. If you forgot to change at 5, then change as soon as you realize it.
- If your opponent distracts you by talking or yelling while the ball is in play, call a “Let” and replay the point.
- Call a “Let,” and play the point over, if both players cannot agree on a call or there is a disturbance during play (someone walks onto the court, a stray ball rolls onto the court, etc.).
- Shake hands after every match to show good sportsmanship.
Rules Unique to Doubles
- All serves are from the server's right box to the opponent's right box.
- When it is time to change servers (after two serves) the individual who just received the serve now becomes the server and the person who just served switches with his/her partner to allow him/her to now receive the serve.
- Once play has begun players must alternate hits. You may not hit the ball two times in a row.
- The person who received first during a game becomes the first server of the next game. He/she will now serve to the player not served to in the first game.
- All other rules are the same as singles.
If you would like to know all the rules, click on the highlighted link below to download.
USA Table Tennis's Official Rules