Key Differences Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis

Most people will wonder whether there are differences between Ping Pong and Table Tennis. After all, these terms are used interchangeably, but are they the same?

Ping Pong and Table Tennis, although similar, are distinct in several aspects. These two games were the same until 2011, when the World Championship of Ping Pong was introduced. Today, both these sports have different sets of equipment, rules, and playing styles

In this article, you will learn what makes ping pong and table tennis different—just read on to know more!

At a Glance: Differences Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis

Ping Pong Table Tennis
Trademark Yes No
Speed Slow Very High
Service  Few Many
Amount of Spin Few Many
Paddle types Same paddle Can be different
Olympic Sport No Yes
World Championship Yes Yes
Flexible Rules Yes No
Points per Match 15 11 

Quick History

Before becoming different games, ping pong and table tennis referred to the same sport. It was invented in the 1880s in England during winter when it wasn’t possible to play lawn tennis. Ping Pong became a trademarked brand for equipment produced by J. Jaques & Son, Ltd. 

The company also bought trademark rights in the US, preventing other manufacturers from using Ping Pong. However, the community adopted the term to refer to the game. Due to such legal reasons, the official name of the sport is table tennis.


In ping pong, you must use only one type of equipment: the blue sandpaper bat. The same kind of paddle is made of five-ply sandpaper, giving the ball a little spin. It’s also the main reason why a ping pong game is slower and less powerful than table tennis. Rallies are longer, and you get plenty of time to hit the ball.

Ping pong rackets have no rubber on either side. Instead, you can find two laminated layers, which also contributes to the low ball spin and slower pace. In terms of price, these paddles are cheaper than table tennis rackets.

On the other hand, table tennis is not only a battle of skill but also equipment. Paddles come in different designs, blades, and surfaces that improve the spin of the ball. From the out rubber to pips in, you can customize a table tennis paddle in many ways.

The racket in table tennis enables a faster pace and much higher spins. Unlike in ping pong, players are given the right to choose different combinations to boost control, power, or speed, depending on their playing style. You can get an edge over your opponents when you modify your paddle to suit your preference.

The ball used in both games is similar, although ping pong balls can be a bit larger. There is a slight difference in diameter: 3.7 mm for ping pong and 3.4 mm for diameter.


In general, rules and regulations for table tennis are more intricate than ping pong. Much of the sporting community view ping pong as a fun, slow-paced game. Some players regard it as a stripped-down version of table tennis. However, ping pong does not lose its competitive quality despite being fondly considered to be a social sport.

Both games are identical to the spectator, but there are differences in rules to cover.


Table tennis as an Olympic sport has clear-cut rules on serving. The player should throw the ball no less than six inches out and upward from the palm. It should also be hit from behind the service line.

In contrast, ping pong is missing the hard-and-fast serving rule that table tennis has. While some players follow the same service, others just let the ball drop and hit. Some players leave the ball to bounce one time before hitting it.

Players are given two serves in table tennis, while ping pong players are usually given five serves in an alternating manner.


Another significant difference between these two sports is the scoring scheme. Ping pong uses a best of three, race to 15 points game, except for semi-finals and the final round that uses a best-of-five play. Tiebreakers are made on the 14th point. It is simple and easy to remember as it is. 

Modern table tennis plays seven games, with each going up to 11 points. The leading player must be two points ahead of the opponent to be awarded the match. If both players reach ten points each, the first person to have a two-point lead will be crowned.

Playing Style

Much of the variances in playing style between the two sports can be attributed to paddles’ difference. Sandpaper bats used in ping pong affect the speed and number of spins. Ping pong games have lengthy rallies and are regarded as a slow-paced sport. However, it does not diminish the fun you can get from this game.

The faster pace of table tennis allows increased spins and speed. Offensive and defensive plays are distinctive in this sport, unlike in ping pong that enables both styles to be played in a single game.

Level of Competition

With rules and equipment varying between ping pong and tennis, it makes sense that different bodies govern the sport. Ping Pong follows the rules and regulations of the World Championships of Ping Pong. On the other hand, the International Table Tennis Federation or ITTF governs table tennis competitions.

Generally, hobby or recreational players of both sports are called ping pong players. National and international matches for ping pong are held worldwide. However, it is not included as an official Olympic sport. In this aspect, table tennis is more competitive and technical, and many players vie for the prestigious Olympic medal.

In Summary

  • Originally the same sport, ping pong, and table tennis branched out to become different games after the World Championships of Ping Pong was established in 2011.
  • Service is hard-and-fast in table tennis and must be above and out an open hand behind the baseline. Ping pong service is more lenient, allowing the ball to bounce once before hitting.
  • Ping pong scoring is typically a best-of-three, first to get 15 points game. Table tennis is a race to 11 points in seven games.
  • Paddles are different in both games. Ping pong uses the same sandpaper material, while table tennis rackets are highly customizable to suit offensive or defensive playing styles.
  • Serious players consider table tennis as the more competitive sport of the two.
  • Footwork is required in table tennis, while ping pong is mostly a play of hands.
  • Table tennis is superior in terms of speed and amount of spins. Rallies are also fast-paced, unlike ping pong that is regarded as a slow-paced game.

Final Thoughts

Despite the differences, ping pong and table tennis are well-loved by many around the world. Each game has plenty of great qualities to celebrate, including the fun and exercise you can get from them.

There is no reason to be confused between ping pong and table tennis when you refer to this article. It takes a keen eye to see the variances in rules, playing style, and equipment. The next time someone insists that both games are the same, you can now come up and enumerate the differences between ping pong and table tennis!