Thank you for visiting Dick's Sporting Goods. If you need assistance with shopping on our site, please call us at 1-877-846-9997 and a customer care representative will be happy to assist you. Please inform the Customer Service representative that you require assistance.
   Home  > How To

How To Play Table Tennis

Instructions and Rules

Object of the Game

2 players or doubles teams try to be the first to reach a score of 21. Points are scored and lost according to the system laid out in "Scoring." Matches are generally played in best 2-of-3 or 3-of-5 series.

Return To Top


Choosing Sides

  • Players and teams should use a coin toss, number throw, or similar method to decide who serves first.
  • The team that wins the coin toss may choose to serve or recieve first, and at which end of the table they prefer to start.
  • After each game, teams/players alternate ends.


  • The server is the player who starts the game by putting the ball into play.
  • Stand at your end of the table holding the ball in the palm of your free hand.
  • Throw the ball straight up in the air. As it falls, hit it so it makes one bounce on your half of the table and lands on the other side.
  • If the serve skims the net, it is a let, and the server must serve again.
  • If it touches the net and lands on the floor, the server loses the point.
  • If the serve hits the net, the server loses the point.
  • The server is active until five points have been scored (combined points of both sides).
  • Players or teams alternate serving every five points.
  • Because the game must be won by 2 points, at 20 to 20, players/teams alternate serving after each point.

Return To Top

Game Play

The two sides volley the ball back and forth to each other, limiting bounces to one per side and alternating serving every five points.

  • The ball may not bounce twice on the receiver's side of the table.
  • The ball may be hit only once on a return.
  • If the return touches the net and goes over, it is a let and play continues.
  • If the ball is hit into the net, the player loses a point.
  • If the return goes over the net but misses the table, the player loses a point.
  • A returning ball that touches the edge of the table on the opponent's side is legal, and very difficult to return. Should the ball hit the side of the table top, however, it is not considered an edge ball and does not count.
  • It is legal to hit the ball around the side of the net to land it on your opponent's side.

Return To Top


Player earns one point:

  • If your opponent fails to return an in-bounds shot. Edge shots, shots that land inside the white line, and shots that touch the white line are considered in-bounds.
  • If you hit the ball off the table but it lands on your opponent's paddle before it touches the floor or wall. This may seem odd, but this rule is designed to prevent volley play.

Player loses one point:

  • If you miss the ball.
  • If you hit the ball into the net, including the top of the net, and it lands on your side of the table.
  • If you hit the ball so the first bounce hits the floor or the wall.
  • If you hit the ball before it bounces on your side of the table. No volley is allowed.
  • If the ball bounces twice on your side of the table before you hit it.
  • If you move the table or touch the net during play.

Return To Top