You’ve just received your new ping pong table and you’re ecstatic to take on your buddy. However, you figure out that scoring isn’t as easy as it may seem. For this piece, we’ll provide the complete guide on how to keep score in ping pong – to get you going with your games in no time, with no confusion attached!
Keeping score in ping pong should seem like a simple task, however, there are a number of factors that come into play – such as how many serves does each player gets, as well as questionable point decisions.
Overall, keeping score in ping pong may seem a bit confusing at first, but once the rules are played over a few games – it will become second nature.
Please note, if you’re pretty new to ping pong and looking for a decent paddle upgrade after getting your new table – we’ve reviewed some awesome options here.
Without further ado, let us learn how to keep score in ping pong!
We thought we’d quickly give a summary of the process of scoring in ping pong:
- Official games of table tennis are played to 11 points
- Official games of table tennis are played in a best out of 5 series
- Players must win the game by at least 2 points in order for the game to be over
- The official length of service is 2 serves per player, and serving alternates
- The easiest way to decide who serves first is through a coin toss
- The length of each game: 11 or 21? 11 is the official game length, but for recreational play, 21 may be more enjoyable for players.
- How many games to be played: Best out of series? A common method is to play a best out of 5 games, essentially first to 3 game wins.
- Determine who serves first: One player holds the ball in one of their hands under the table while other play must try choose the hand with the ball in it – if player chooses correctly, he/she can decide who serves.
- Determine length of serves: Official length of serves is 2 serves each, but for recreational play this can vary.
There must be some discussion before the game has started. The first thing that should be agreed on, is how many points per game. In official tournaments, players play up to 11 points, but for recreational play – there is also the option of 21 points. Players should agree on the game length, and then discuss how many games they actually want to play – like a series. A common method is to play a best out of 5 – so essentially first to 3 game wins. Best out of 5 is the length of matches in official tournaments.
Players should also agree on who is to serve first. The best method to do this is by one play putting the ball in one of their hands and putting both hands under the table. The other play must now select a hand that he/she thinks might have the ball in it. If the player chooses correctly, he/she can decide who serves first, if the choice is incorrect, the player with the ball on them decides.
Another method is ‘throwing’ for service. This is when the ball is thrown gently over the net by any player, and a rally is begun. The winner of the rally decides on who is to serve. Another way to determine service is to toss a coin, which is less fun than we think.
Another thing to discuss which varies for different players is the length of serves. The official rules of table tennis state that there are 2 serves per player before the next player has the chance to serve. This should be the standard way of serving, however, for recreational play, it is acceptable the vary the length of service, and this can be agreed upon by both players. For instance, a lot of recreational players like to have 3 or 5 serves per player.
A point is WON when your opponent:
- Fails to hit the ball over the net
- Hits the ball over your side of the table (no bounce on your side)
- Serves to your side of the table without bouncing the ball on his side first
- Serves to your side of the table with no bounce on your side
- Fails to clear the net on his/her service
A point to LOST when you:
- Fail to clear the net for any shot, including service
- Hit the ball over your opponent’s side of the table (no bounce)
- Serve to your opponent’s side of the table with no bounce on your side first
- Serve to your opponents side of the table with no bounce of his/her side
Scoring in table tennis works differently from its relative tennis. In table tennis, for each point won – a player receives 1 point, and this point is added to an overall tally. In official tournaments, each game is first to 11 points – but the length of games can vary for recreational play. For instance, some players enjoy longer games, so they will play to 21 points.
Let service (Edges the net)
This is another questionable situation that comes up often in a match. If a player serves, and the ball edges the net on the way through, but still bounces on the opponent’s side of the table – the player has to retake the serve, with no point won. There is no limit to how many retakes.
If the player edges the net on the service, but the ball doesn’t bounce on the opponent’s side of the table – the player who is receiving the serve wins the point.
It is advised that both players keep track of the overall score in their heads, in order to try to avoid confusion.
Length of games and series
The official length of an individual game of table tennis is first to 11 points. This is the advised way to play, as it leads to fast and exciting matches. Players will each begin on 0, and points will be added on as the game goes on.
A common question that comes up is:
“What happens when both players are on 10 points?”
Well, a lot of players think that ‘next point wins’, however, this is not how it’s played in official tournaments. Individual matches should be won by an outright 2 points. So if both players are at 10 points, one player will have to reach 12 points in that scenario. If both players reach 11 points, then a player will have to reach 13 points, and so on.
In terms of games series, this is how many games are to be played in a match. In official table tennis tournaments, games are played in a best out of 5 series. This is when a player wins the majority of the 5 games played. However, if a player wins the first 3 games, the series is over as there can be no comeback – so only 3 games are played in that match. It is advised that another game is played in this situation.
A way to keep track of a game series is to keep some small items around the table in a game series. If you win a game, put a small item in your pocket (a match or a pebble). 1 item = 1 game win. This way, you can focus on the current game, and not have to think about the overall series.
Scoring in the game of table tennis should be a relatively simple process, yet there is often confusion amongst players. We hope this piece helps eliminate any confusion and gives you a basic idea of how scoring should be done in ping pong.
If you’re interested, we’ve written some other informational articles relating to ping pong, which may give you a few tips in improving the quality of your table tennis matches.