Ping Pong Rules

6 Frequently Asked Questions About Ping Pong Rules

Last Updated on March 24, 2024

Listen, rule books are boring. It’s long and technical and it’s surprisingly difficult to find answers to the most common and simple questions about ping pong. To help you get back fast to your game, we have listed 6 of the most commonly asked questions about the rules of ping pong all answered in simple, plain English.

Can You ‘Volley’ in Ping Pong?

Volley or obstructing the ball is an illegal shot in ping pong. When you volley, it is a penalty – you lose a point.

What’s a Volley?

A volley is when you hit or touch the ball, whether intentionally or accidentally, back to your opponent before it hits the ground or the table in your court or goes out of play.

What’s a Rally and how is it different from a Volley?

A rally is a period when the ball is in play; when players hit the ball many times after it bounces.

Players rally when they practice or warm up or during points while they play a match.

Players usually rally from the baseline.

They hit volleys when they are nearer the net.

A volley is when a player hits the ball out of the air before it lands. A volley is hit from head height or below.

The shot is not an overhead or a serve. It is different from overhead and a serve, these are balls hit in the air above the head.

Players hit volleys from the middle of the court as they come near the net, or when they stand near the net:

  • The ball must cross the net without touching the ground to be good.
  • When you hit the ball, your paddle or racket crosses the net, but it must not touch the net.
  • And you have to wait for the ball to cross the net into your side of the court before you hit it.
  • Your paddle must not touch the net while in play.
  • If you hit a ball, with the little backswing, after it bounces, it is called a half-volley.

Ping Pong Rules on Volleying

The handbook of the Federation of International Table Tennis states that before a player can hit the ball, it must bounce on his side of the table.

Law 2.5.8:

  • If a player or anything he carries or wears, touches the ball when it is above and traveling to the playing surface, he obstructs the ball; if the ball has not yet touched his court after his opponent strikes it.

Law 2.10.1 & Law

  • A player scores a point except if the rally is a let. A let is a point that does not count.

When a Volley Costs the Player a Point

The rules state that before you return the ball, wait for it to bounce on your side of the table.

  • If you hit the ball while it is on its way, your opponent gets the point

You also lose the point if the ball hits your arm, hand, or anything you’re wearing before it lands on your side of the table.

Two Situations When a Volley is Not Technically Illegal

When a Volley Does Not Cost the Player a Point

If the ball is not above the playing surface and it’s not really traveling to the playing surface, and somehow, you hit or touch the ball, in a sense, you volley the ball-but here, you win the point, wherever your hit goes even if the ball was not hit, it’s already a loss for your opponent since the ball did not strike the table and is literally flying away from the table.

If your opponent returns the hit, this doesn’t count either. The point is yours.

Another ‘Volley’ type

If the ball hits you or your racket inadvertently as it heads away from the playing surface, past the table, you receive the point since the ball has gone over the end line. The ball is already dead once it passes the end line, and did not bounce on the table. Even when you returned it

In earlier Ping Pong rules, a volley was declared illegal, whether a volley was unintentional or when the ball could not hit the table. In the 1990s, the rules changed many times. By 2000, the above rules were adopted to promote fairness in play.

Can You ‘Hit the Net’ in Ping Pong

During a Serve

When you serve, if the ball hits the net but still bounces on the opponent’s side of the table, the point is a let.

A let describes points that are not counted. This means it has to be replayed.

If the ball hits the net and does not go to the other half of the table, the receiver automatically gets the point.

Ping Pong Rules

Can You Hit the Net Several Times on a Serve?

There’s no limit to how many nets serves you do in Ping Pong. A net serve is considered a let in table tennis.

With no regulations that limit the number of times, a let is called.

During a Rally:

A rally is the period when the ball is in play. When is the ball in play?

It begins from the last moment on your palm before it is served and projected.

Yes, you can hit the net when it’s a rally, Not when serving.

If the ball hits the net assembly and legitimately lands on the opponent’s court, the rally goes on. It’s okay.

The net assembly is composed of the net, its suspension, and supporting posts.

It’s even ok for the ball to hit the net several times before landing on the opponent’s court.

Law 2.07. 01 states:

  • The ball, after being served or returned, must be struck so it lands on the opponent’s court, either directly or after touching the net.
  • However, if the ball hits the net and fails to land on the other half of the table, the receiver automatically gets a point.
  • The shot is also valid if the ball goes around the net.
  • So long as it doesn’t go under the net or hit the side of the tabletop.
  • As long as you hit the ball and it goes on your opponent’s playing side

Can You ‘Lose on a Serve’ in Ping Pong?


How Do You Serve Correctly in Ping Pong?

The aim of the serve rules is that the receiver can see the ball at all times, in order to clearly read the spin.

The ball is served so it will fly over the net and hit the other side of the table. If the ball bounces off your half, it is a fault.

If the ball comes and hits the net, it is a wrong serve. No points are counted. The serve must be done again.

In other words, you can lose on a serve in ping pong.


When the ball leaves the server’s hand, it is now in play. If the ball is missed or hit wrongly, this counts as the receiver’s point.

Legal FITT Rules of a Serve

  • 1. Service starts with the ball resting freely on the server’s open palm of his free hand. The fingers don’t hold it in place.
  • 2. The server must project the ball near-vertically upwards, without spin. At least 16 centimeters from the palm.
  • 3. As the ball falls, the server hits the ball. It must first touch his court. Then touch his opponent’s court.
  • 4. From start to full execution of the serve, the ball remains above the level of the playing surface.
  • 5. When the ball is projected, the server’s free hand and arm are withdrawn from the area midway between the net and the ball.
  • 6. The receiver must have a full view of the ball
  • 7. Service starts behind the end line and above the table.
  • 8. The player must do a serve that the umpire approves.
  • The umpire determines whether the service is valid or not.

A Player can Lose on a Serve When:

  • The ball is tossed upwards but does not strike it.
  • Strikes the ball when he is not behind the end line of the table
  • The ball was not projected high enough, at 6 inches or straight enough, at 25 degrees
  • Hits the ball as it goes up. The server must not hit the ball on its way down.
  • Starts the toss when the ball is already inside the table. Or strikes the ball while it is over the table.
  • Strikes the ball, and it does not the first land on the server’s side of the table, but then on the other side.
  • Strikes the ball which lands correctly, bounces off. But the ball was either too far or too close and does not reach the opponent’s side.

Other Illegal Serves that Can Lead to a Lose

Delayed Serve

  • While there are no specific rules for serving time, when a player delays the serve, grabs the ball very slowly. or keeps on changing positions that distracts the competitor, this earns a negative point.

Swift Serve

  • If a player serves too fast and the opponent isn’t ready yet, this is also an illegal serve. The player must wait for the other player to be in position.

Serving In-Table

  • Overly fast and extremely short serve: here the ball stays in or under the table. This is illegal. The server must put the ball outside the table.

How to Serve Legally and Not Lose Points

Ball Hold

  • Make sure your ball hold is valid. Open your hand flat. Put the ball in the center of your palm. It must be visible. Do not clench the ball or clutch it with your fingertips. This is a foul.

The Right Stance

  • When you toss the ball up, stay behind the white end line of the table. To hit the ball closer to the net, do not bend forward or lean on the table.

Tossing the Ball

  • Toss the ball straight up in the air, don’t just strike it out of your hand. Upwards, at a minimum of six inches. This measurement is observed strictly. The ball must not toss forward, backward, or to the side.

Don’t Hide the Ball

  • During the toss, make sure the ball is visible. Don’t let your hands, arms, or body hide or obscure the ball.

Can You ‘Use Your Hand’ in Ping Pong?

Touching the ball with your racket hand is allowed You can use your racket hand to hit the ball.

All fingers and the hand area below your wrist are your racket hand.

  • You cannot hit the ball with your free hand.
  • Your free hand is the hand that does not hold the racket.
  • If your racket drops, this hand is no longer your racket hand but is now your free hand.

ITTF Rule:

  • When a ball hits you below the wrist or your fingers and you hit it back with your racket hand, this is not a foul.
  • This rule applies only to the hand that holds the paddle or the racket.

Law 2,5,7: it is legal to hit the ball with your racket hand below the wrist, or your fingers, or any part of the racket.

You can legally return the ball :

  • When you hit the ball with the back of your racket hand
  • When you hit it with the edge of the racket, not with the rubber
  • When you hit it with the handle of the racket

If you drop your racket and you hit the ball with your hand, this is not allowed. Because this is now your free hand.

Double Hits

You can hit the ball with the racket hand below the wrist, but only one contact is made. You cannot intentionally do Double hits. That is, hit the ball with the fingers of your racket hand. And after this, hit the ball with your racket.

A positive note:

  • When the ball hits your finger during a serve or rally and the ball lands on the opponent’s court, the shot is valid.

Can You Serve ‘Off-The-Side’ in Ping Pong

Yes. Just observe these serving rules.

If you’re the person serving, you are not limited as to where you can stand to serve. You can serve by the side of the table.

When you start the serve and until you hit the ball, it is important that the ball remains behind the white end line or an imaginary extension of the end line in both directions.

This means, the full service, from tossing up to the ball’s first contact with the racket, must start behind the end line.

So effectively, you must stand behind the white line at your table’s end. The ball must be visible. It must be above the table’s playing surface.

In practice, serving off the side is not done often because the server can be out of position for the remainder of the rally.

Can You ‘Hit the Ball Twice’ in Ping Pong

The ball is hit only once, on each side of the net.

Hitting The Ball

You can hit the ball with your racket hand below your wrist, with your fingers, or with any part of your racket.

You return the ball to the side of your opponent by:

  • Hitting with the back of your racket hand
  • Hitting with the edge of the racket, instead of with the rubber
  • Or you use the handle of the racket

The ball cannot be deliberately struck twice. When you hit the ball twice intentionally and in succession, you lose points.

But there are cases when the ball itself contacts two striking surfaces. It contacts the edge of the racket, then rebounds and you strike the ball so it will land on the court of your opponent.

If the double hit is accidental, like when the ball first hits your finger on the racket, then it rebounds to hit the racket itself. You hit the ball TWICE. first with your finger, then with the racket.

Technically, it is a double hit.

Other cases are when the ball hits the edge of the racket, after which it rebounds upward.

And you hit the ball so it will land on the court of the opponent.

But in this situation, you did not intentionally hit the ball twice.

Today’s Ping Pong rules accept Double Hits as legal when they are accidental double hits:

  • That is when the ball hits your finger and then hits the racket.
  • The umpire decides when a double hit is not intentional, but accidental.
  • Before, the rule deducted points on BPTH intentional and accidental double hits.

Conditions that make accidental double hits acceptable:

  • 1. You must hold the racket with one hand.
  • 2. The ball hit your finger then bounced off and hit the racket.
  • 3. Dropping your racket, then hitting the ball with your hand is not allowed.
author avatar
Ashton Brown
Ashton Brown spent a lot of time in after school programs as a child. In a local community-run recreation center in Boston, they had a ping pong table, and since then he has always played. He had a ping pong table in his college dorm, and a mini one in his office for giggles. After playing for years, Ashton wants to show you how to get started with ping pong, learn the tricks of the trade, and equip yourself with everything you need to be better at the game.

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