Ping pong isn’t a super complicated game but here we are…

I’m going to walk you through how to play ping pong, covering everything from the basic rules to exact strategies on how you can make Sally from HR cry on the next company retreat.

We’ll talk about different serves you should be learning, how to return the ball so well it doesn’t want to come back, walk you through the importance of equipment and give you some tips around that and a ton more.

Grab a coffee, put away your paddle (your grip is off), and let’s get started.

Mastering the Basics of Ping Pong

Two table tennis players playing a match

Before you can become a winning ping pong player and destroy your coworkers…

You’ve got to understand the basics of the game. In this section, we’ll dive into the basic rules, proper grip techniques, serving techniques, and tips for hitting back a ping pong ball.

Mastering these basics will set the foundation for your journey to becoming a good player.

Basic Rules of Ping Pong

Ping pong is a fast-paced, exciting game that’s easy to learn but challenging to master.

The goal of the game is to be the first to earn 11 points. You must win with a margin of 2 points for victory. Players must serve the ball twice before switching up who goes serves.

The ball should bounce once on their own side and then once on their opponent’s side.

Players must strike the ball back onto their opponent’s side of the table after it has bounced once on their side. After serving, this must be done. If a player does not make a return, they will forfeit the point.

The four main shots that beginners should become familiar with are the push, block, drive, and smash. Mastering these shots, along with the essential skills of grip, stance, and footwork, will build a strong foundation for your game.

Paddle Grip Techniques

Your grip is the foundation of your game, and it’s essential to find one that feels comfortable and allows you to execute various shots effectively.

The shakehands grip and the penhold grip are two popular grips used in table tennis. Both these grips have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The shakehands grip is the most common grip used by players around the world. It involves holding the paddle as if you’re shaking hands with someone, providing a balanced and comfortable grip for both forehand and backhand shots.

The penhold grip, on the other hand, is a traditional Asian grip that involves holding the paddle like a pen between the thumb and index finger. This grip offers unique advantages in terms of wrist flexibility and spin generation, but can be more challenging to master for beginners.

We recommend starting with the shakehands grip, as it provides a nice balance of control, power, and simplicity.

Serving Techniques

The serve is the most important shot in table tennis, as it sets the tone for the point and can put your opponent on the defensive from the start.

To execute a good serve, players must throw the ball straight up in the air and strike it with their paddle to send it across the table, ensuring it bounces once on their side and once on their opponent’s side.

There are numerous serving techniques to explore, including the backspin serve, topspin serve, and sidepin serve.

To become a winning server, it’s essential to practice different serves and experiment with various spins, speeds, and placements. This will keep your opponent guessing and give you a massive edge during matches.

If you’re up against a much better player than yourself, the odds are high you’ll lose just off their serves.

Tips for Hitting Back (Returning)

Developing accuracy, consistency, and control when hitting back the ball is crucial to improve your game.

To master the essential shots, such as the forehand drive, backhand drive, forehand push, and backhand push, focus on honing your technique and practicing as much as possible, consistently.

One helpful tip is to pay attention to your opponent’s body language and paddle position to anticipate the type of shot they’ll hit.

This can give you valuable information about the spin, speed, and direction of the incoming ball, allowing you to prepare your response and execute a successful return.

Ping Pong Equipment Guide

A ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball on a table

Choosing the right equipment is pretty important, you’ll notice a huge difference if you’re playing with a poor paddle or on an unmaintained table.

In this section, we’ll discuss different types of ping pong paddles, tables, and balls, as well as how to select the best options for your needs and preferences.

Paddles come in a variety of materials, sizes, and weights. The type of paddle you choose will depend on your playing style and skill level. Tables come in all shapes and sizes.

Choosing the Right Ping Pong Paddle

Selecting the right ping pong paddle can significantly impact your game. When choosing a paddle, consider factors such as size, weight, and grip, as well as the type of paddle that best suits your needs, such as an all-round paddle, an offensive paddle, or a defensive paddle.

If you are new to the game, we suggest opting for a paddle with good control.

Additionally, ensure that the spin and speed ratings are low. This will help you develop your technique and consistency without being overwhelmed by excessive power.

The Palio Expert 2 and the Eastfield Allround Professional are both excellent choices for beginners, offering a nice balance of control, spin, and speed.

Finding the Best Ping Pong Table

how to play ping pong on the best ping pong table

When selecting a table, consider factors such as size, weight, material, and price. A well-constructed table will provide a consistent bounce and a smooth playing surface, enhancing your playing experience.

For beginners, we recommend the JOOLA Inside 15 and the STIGA XTR Series Table. Both options are reasonably priced, simple to assemble, and have excellent reviews.

When assembling your table, follow the instructions carefully to ensure it is stable and level, providing an optimal playing surface.

Selecting Your Balls

Ping pong balls are rated in quality using a star system, ranging from 1 to 3 stars. One-star balls are typically used for recreational play, while three-star balls are used for competitive matches and tournaments.

Beginners can start with one or two-star balls, as these provide a good balance of quality and affordability. As you progress and begin participating in tournaments, you may want to invest in three-star balls for a more consistent bounce and higher quality play.

Always ensure you have a sufficient supply of balls for practice and matches.

Developing Your Skills

Two table tennis players playing a match with a net in the middle

Once you’ve mastered the basics and acquired the right equipment, it’s time to focus on developing your game skills.

In this section, we’ll discuss fundamental shots to learn, playing doubles, and learning from experts to help you elevate your game.

Fundamental shots to learn include the forehand and backhand drives, the forehand and backhand loops, the serve, and the return of serve. Playing doubles requires a different strategy than playing singles.

Fundamental Shots to Learn

Mastering the essential shots, such as the forehand drive, backhand drive, forehand push, and backhand push, will significantly improve your game. To practice these shots, consider incorporating drills into your practice routine, focusing on accuracy, consistency, and control.

In addition to practicing these shots, take the time to observe and analyze your opponents during matches.

This will help you identify patterns and strategies that you can incorporate into your own game, as well as reveal potential weaknesses that you can exploit to gain an advantage.

Playing Doubles

Playing doubles can be a fun and challenging way to improve your skills and enjoy the game with friends. To crush it in doubles, focus on serving diagonally, targeting the weaker player, using simple serves, alternating shots, and communicating well with your partner.

Another thing to consider in doubles play is movement and coordination with your partner. By moving together and covering each other’s shots, you can effectively cover the table and put pressure on your opponents, increasing your chances of winning points.

Learning from The Pros

Learning from pros is an excellent way to elevate your ping pong skills. Attending tournaments, workshops, and online resources can provide valuable insights, personalized feedback, and the opportunity to practice with other players of similar skill levels.

In addition to learning from experts, consider watching professional matches and analyzing their techniques, strategies, and shot selection – even if it’s on YouTube.

This can provide inspiration and help you identify areas for improvement in your own game. By continually learning and refining your skills, you’ll be well on your way to winning that office trophy.

Getting Involved in the Community

A group of people playing table tennis in a club

As you progress in your ping pong journey, you may want to get more involved in the community. In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of joining a table tennis club and participating in tournaments.

Joining a club can help you make new friends and take your game to new heights. You can learn from more experienced players and get tips on how to improve your game. Participating in tournaments can also help you gain confidence and hone your skills. You can.

Joining a Table Tennis Club

Joining a table tennis club can be a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals, practice regularly, and participate in organized competitions. To find a club that suits you, visit as a guest to get a feel for the atmosphere, players, and equipment.

If you decide to become a member, inquire about membership fees and any other requirements.

By joining a club, you’ll gain access to a supportive community of players who can help you improve your game, share tips and strategies, and make your game experience more enjoyable.

Participating in Tournaments

Participating in tournaments can be an exhilarating experience, offering the opportunity to test your skills against other players and showcase your progress.

Tournaments also provide valuable learning experiences, as you can observe other players’ techniques, strategies, and mental game.

To find local tournaments, search online or inquire at your local club. As you gain experience and confidence, you may wish to participate in larger tournaments and even pursue competitive play at the regional or national level.

Embrace the challenge and enjoy the journey!

Tips for Improving Your Game

Now that you’ve learned the basics, acquired the right equipment, and become part of the community (sounds lame, I know), it’s time to focus on improving your game.

In this section, we’ll share tips on practice routines and drills, mental strategies, and useful accessories to help you reach your full potential.

Table Tennis Practice Routines and Drills

A person practicing table tennis alone

Incorporating practice routines and drills into your training regimen can significantly improve your skills and techniques. Some effective drills include backhand to backhand, forehand to forehand, backhand to forehand, and forehand to backhand, as well as the 3rd ball drill and service training drills.

To maximize the benefits of these drills, focus on accuracy, consistency, and control. Consistent practice will help you develop muscle memory, allowing you to execute shots with precision and confidence during matches.

Practicing Alone

While practicing with a partner or in a group can be beneficial, there are also ways to practice ping pong alone.

One technique is shadow play, where you mimic the movements of a ping pong match without actually hitting the ball. This can help you practice your form and technique without the need for a partner.

Another option for solo practice is using a table tennis robot, which can be programmed to shoot balls at different speeds, angles, and spins. This allows you to practice various shots and refine your skills without having to rely on a practice partner.

Mental Strategies

Incorporating mental strategies into your ping pong training can help you stay focused, positive, and resilient during matches. Some effective mental strategies include visualization, positive self-talk, and focusing on the process rather than the outcome.

Visualization can help you mentally rehearse shots and strategies, while positive self-talk can boost your confidence and motivation during challenging moments. Focusing on the process, rather than the outcome, can help you stay present and avoid getting caught up in the score or the result of the match.

Useful Accessories

Investing in useful accessories can enhance your experience and support your improvement. Some essential accessories include a paddle case to protect your paddle, a rubber cleaner to maintain the grip and performance of your paddle, and a game room organizer to keep your equipment neat and tidy.

Other helpful accessories include a table cover to protect your table from dust and damage, edge tape to prolong the life of your paddle, and varnish to maintain the appearance and performance of your paddle. These accessories can help you get the most out of your ping pong setup and ensure you’re always ready for action.


Ultimately it comes down to just practicing as much as possible like most skills in the world.

If you’re just starting out I’d encourage understanding the different types of serves and returns, getting an idea of how spin works, and watching a few YouTube videos on how professionals play.

If you only play against friends and focus on winning, you’re going to have pretty slow progression. It’s super important to have sessions where you’re solely focused on playing better and actually practicing your shots, not just competing.

Enjoy the journey and check out some of our other guides.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules to ping pong?

Playing table tennis, or ping pong, is a great way to have fun and stay active. The official rules of the game are simple: serve the ball over the net, rally the ball back and forth between opponents until one misses the ball, and alternate serving after each point.

Make sure to keep an eye out for any distractions and enjoy your friendly competition!

What are the 5 basic rules of table tennis?

As a table tennis player and enthusiast, it’s important to know the five basic rules for the sport: always keep your free hand behind your back, serve diagonally, let the ball bounce only once before returning it, score a point when the opponent fails to return the ball, and the first to reach 11 points wins the game.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to have a fun and competitive match!

What are the rules of ping pong vs table tennis?

Table tennis requires players to hit the ball from behind the baseline, while ping pong allows players to serve straight out of the hand or after a bounce on the table. Both sports require the ball to be thrown upwards at least six inches from an open hand before it is hit, making them both great options for recreational game play!

Table tennis and ping pong are both great options for recreational game play. Both require the ball to be thrown upwards at least six inches from an open hand before it is hit. Table tennis requires players to hit the ball from behind the baseline, while table tennis requires players to hit the ball from behind the baseline.

How is ping pong played?

Playing ping pong is a fun and engaging way to pass time with friends. The game is played by taking turns to hit the lightweight, hollow ball across the table’s net, using small rackets, until one player or team fails to return the ball correctly.

Every successful return earns points for the player or team.