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Rules for Ping Pong

Rules for Ping Pong

When a ping pong table presents itself, sometimes you want to get down to the nitty gritty and really understand the rules. This way, everyone knows what’s happening and it’s the best way to keep things objective. “House rules” have ruined many a game of ping pong, among less athletic pursuits. Other times, however, a simple game is all that’s required for a little fun and a way to pass the time. Both of these work, it simply depends on what you have in mind or feel like doing.

We thought it best to cover both types of game: official and casual. Having an understanding of how the game really works and its machinations is something that intrigues a lot of people, and some prefer to keep things between the lines (so to speak). Others merely want to have fun and keep things competitive with a running score. Both work, so let’s find out what works best for you. It’s always best to remember that no one likes a stickler, so if the rules aren’t followed to the letter, it’s okay to let things go every now and then. Let’s remember that ping pong is supposed to be fun, shall we?

Let’s kick things off by starting with the rules for a casual game of ping pong. Again, let’s not forget that fun is the primary objective here. We’ll cover the rules for the more serious players in the subsequent paragraphs.

Casual Games

There are a few things you’re going to want to decide before the game starts, and others you may want to alter during the course of play. This is where the vaunted “house rules” often come in to play, so remember that if you’re playing on someone else’s table that things have a tendency to go awry. Anyway, here’s a few rules to guide you, and ensure that there’s some semblance of order:

  • Decide beforehand whether you want to play a best of three, five, or seven. Some wiseacre who wins the first two games will certainly push for a shorter series of games. Stick to your guns in this situation as you don’t want to be a pushover;
  • Typically, games are played to 21 with the winner having to win by two points. Should you want to change the score, that’s fine too but be sure to do so beforehand. Also note that you can’t win on your own serve, so if it’s a game point situation be sure to have the person who is down serve the ball;
  • Each person serves five times consecutively, regardless of the score. It keeps the game fair all along;
  • Like in any other game, the serve must first bounce in the server’s side of the table before striking the other side of the table. Should this fail to happen, it’s the opponent’s point. If the net is hit and the ball bounces into the opponent’s side of the table a “let” is called, and the server gets another try. Should the ball hit the net and fall into the server’s side of the table, then it’s a point for the opposition.

That’s pretty much the gist of it when it comes to casual games. As I said, tinker with the rules to see what works for you and your friends and what doesn’t. when you find some middle ground, the games become more fun and easier to play.

Serious Games

There are a lot of small and finicky rules when it comes to playing the game properly, and should you find yourself a tournament then it’s certainly important to understand the rule book thoroughly. For today’s purposes, let’s focus on the bigger picture and tackle the rules that may not be overt but are important in playing the game properly.

There are official paddles, tables, and nets, but don’t concern yourself too much with these things. There are plenty of great tables out there, so find one that works for your space and not one that is necessarily “tournament ready.” With that in mind, let’s discuss some of the official rules that will help to guide your game of ping pong:

  • If a game is nearing the end and tied at 20, players shall alternate service until the game has been decided. This is called “deuce;”
  • A player shall not put his non-playing hand on the table at any time. This immediately results in a forfeiture of the point;
  • The initial serve is decided by a coin flip. The winner of the coin flip can decide whether they would like to serve first or would like to play on a particular side of the table.

The remaining rules are quite similar to those discussed in the casual game section. The difference is that they must actually be enforced. There can’t be a bold claim of “house rules” either, as this is directly in violation of the rules and good taste. Should someone be so bold when playing a serious game, you have an obligation to remove them from the game, post-haste.

Let’s remember, ping pong should be fun and perhaps a little exercise. Rules are important for establishing a framework within which a game can operate. Without rules all we have is chaos, and chaos shall not prevail in such a civilized game. Regardless, do your best to have some fun and stick to the parameters that were initially put in place, whatever those may be.

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