One of the best past times to enjoy with friends is playing ping pong or table tennis. If you’re planning a game of ping pong doubles with friends, but can’t seem to agree on the rules then you’re in the right place! Table tennis rules can be a bit confusing for someone who doesn’t play often, as they do differ slightly from the one-on-one version of the game but never fear, we are here to help you out!

The following information will help to clearly explain ping pong doubles rules so that you can enjoy a game without arguing about the rules or throwing your paddles at each other!

But wait! Before we get to the actual rules, let’s talk set up….

Ping Pong Doubles Set Up

The obvious equipment you will need is a ping pong table as well as ping pong paddles (or rackets) and balls. However, when you’re playing doubles you may have to do a bit of extra set up.

Since the ping pong table is already divided in two by the net, that is taken care of for you. However, when playing doubles each side of the court needs to be divided into two equal areas for each player on a doubles team. Many ping pong tables have this done via a thin white line already, but if yours doesn’t then you can simply use a piece of tape to divide down the middle of each side so that each player knows their side of the court.

What Are The Ping Pong Doubles Rules?

The rules of ping pong doubles can seem a little complicated at first. Especially when you’re reading them, it can be a little hard to picture. However, once you’ve wrapped your head around the rules and have spent a bit of time playing, the rules are actually pretty easy to follow.
Below are the basic ping pong doubles rules for a friendly game of doubles ping pong. If you want a more in-depth look, you can view the ITTF handbook here which goes into much more detail about specific rules and regulations.

ping pong doubles rules

Who Serves First

While this isn’t an official rule, it does seem to be somewhat of a tradition to do a coin toss. Most games start with a coin toss to determine which team will serve first. In some cases, instead of the team who wins the coin toss serving first, they get to pick if they want to go first or if they want their opposing team to go first. In the end, this isn’t an official rule so you can decide who serves first using whatever method works best for you.

Serve Diagonally

When serving during a doubles game, the ball must be served from the right side of the table to the opposing player diagonal from the server. The ball must bounce on the right side of the servers court before landing on the diagonally opposite player’s side (right side from the receiving teams perspective, left side from the serving teams perspective).

Alternate Hits

A pair in doubles must strike the ball alternately. This means that one person from a team will hit, and then when the ball comes back to that team, the other person on the team will take a turn. Not following this rule will award in the opposing team receiving a point. We often see people playing doubles where a player on one team returns multiple shots consecutively. This is not allowed! Make sure you alternate shots with your partner.

Changing Service

After the first server’s two chances to serve are up, it goes to the other team. When changing service, the person who received the last time becomes the new server. The partner of the previous server becomes the receiver. It alternates in this way each time service is changed giving all players a chance to serve.

Changing Courts

Once 5 points have been scored, it’s time for the teams to switch sides. This simply means that each team moves to a different side of the table. This ensures that each team, and person, gets to fairly experience the unique conditions on both sides of the table. Yes that’s correct, even though you are more than likely playing inside, the conditions on either side of the table are different! Differences can include a a draft on one side of the table affecting ball flight or even light/glare that is present on one side of the table and not the other. All these factors make a difference and thus, swapping sides after 5 points ensures maximum fairness and minimal arguments.

How to Earn Points

A point is awarded when a player fails to return the ball over the net and into the oppositions side of the court.

In addition, points can be awarded to the opposing team when a player:

  • Serves poorly (illegally)
  • Fails to follow an alternating hitting sequence
  • Fails to direct the ball to the correct side of the opponent’s court
  • Lands a ball off of the table

How to Win a Game of Doubles

To win a game of ping pong doubles, the team that reaches 11 points first (with at least a 2 point lead) wins the game.

The exception to this is if both teams score 10 points at the same time. Then the game is won by the first team to gain a lead of two points.

Common Questions about Ping Pong Doubles

We have summarised some of the most commonly asked questions about ping pong doubles in the table below. If you have any other questions, send them through to us and we will update the table with the answer!

We regularly update this table to make sure we can answer as many of your doubles related questions as possible!

Yes! One of the rules in doubles ping pong is that you need to alternate who hits the ball each time. So player 1 would hit it the first time and then when it comes back it’s up to player 2 to hit it back. This goes on through the entire game. Sample Description
Yes, once one team reaches 5 points then the teams switch sides. This rule is to ensure fairness due to any possible differences from one side of the court to the other.
Yes, when serving during a doubles game the server has to serve toward the opposite team that’s diagonally opposite from them. Whether you’re new to ping pong or are a casual player that wants to play doubles more often, the above rules will be useful to make sure you’re playing a fair game of ping pong doubles. When you’re about to play a game and there’s any misconception about rules feel free to bring up this post and go over it with the players you’re about to play with.