Rules and History of Table Tennis or Ping Pong

“Whif Whaf,” “Gossamer,” and “Flim Flam” aka Ping Pong.


A Little Bit of History


The sport of Ping Pong got its start in England at the end of the 19th century as an after dinner entertainment game upper and middle class Victorians would play. It was not originally called Ping Pong. When it first got its start is was called, “Whif Whaf,” “Gossamer,” or “Flim Flam,” based on the noise the ball made as it bounced back and forth on the table. The hosts and their guests would turn their dining room table into a mini version of traditional lawn tennis. In 1901, the phrase “Ping Pong,” used to describe the sport was coined by J. Jaques & Son Ltd, which was later sold to the Parker Brothers in the United States. In the 1920’s the name and sport was revived in Europe as Table Tennis.






The server shall project the ball vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm and then falls without touching anything before being struck.


The ball shall not be hidden from the receiver by any part of the body or clothing of the server or his doubles partner and as soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm shall be removed from the space between the server’s body and the net.


If the umpire is doubtful of the legality of a service he may, on the first occasion in a match, declare a let (see below) and warn the server. Any subsequent service of doubtful legality of that player or his doubles partner will result in a point to the receiver.


Whenever there is a clear failure to comply with the requirements for a good service, no warning shall be given and the receiver shall score a point.


Let Point


In Table Tennis to “Let” a point is to disregard it. A point is let if:

  1. The ball touches the net during an otherwise good serve without interruption by either player.
  2. Play is disturbed by circumstances beyond the players’ control.
  3. The service is delivered when the receiving player or pair is not ready, provided that neither the receiver nor his partner attempts to strike the ball.


Scoring Points


When serving, the ball should bounce once on the server’s side of the table and once on your opponent’s side of the table. (In doubles play, the ball shall touch successively the right half court of server and receiver.)


When returning however, the ball should only bounce once on your opponent’s side of the table.


The first player who fails to keep the ball in play, as specified, loses the point.

There are other ways to score points:


If your opponent’s free hand touches the playing surface; if your opponent, or anything your opponent wears or carries, touches the net assembly; if your opponent strikes the ball twice successively, you win a point.


Course of Play


After a combined two points have been scored, the receiving player or pair shall become the serving player or pair and so on until the end of the game, unless both players or pairs score 10 points , when the sequences of serving and receiving shall be the same but each player shall serve for only 1 point in turn.

The right to choose the initial order of serving shall be decided by luck and the winner may choose to serve or to receive first. The chooser can also decide whether he wants to start at a particular end of the table, but then gives up the right to decide the service order.


In either case, service order and table ends are switched at the beginning of each new game in a match ( a match shall consist of the best of any odd number of games).Also, in the last possible game of a match the players switch ends when the higher score stands at five points.


A game shall be won by the player or pair first scoring 11 points unless both players or pairs score 10 points, at which point the game shall be won by the first player or pair subsequently gaining a lead of 2 points.


These Rules were taken from a broader set of regulations set out by the International Table Tennis Federation, and were slightly modified for easier readability.


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