The International Tables Tennis Federation (ITFF) sets the official ruleset for ping pong, "The Laws of Table Tennis". I modified their 2019 handbook by removing rules for doubles and handicapped-player matches, and by rewording rules for clarity.


  1. Definitions
    1. A rally is the period during which the ball is in play.
    2. The ball is in play from the beginning of the serve until the rally is decided as a let or a point.
    3. A let is a rally where the result is not scored.
    4. A point is a rally where the result is scored.
    5. The racket hand is the hand carrying the racket.
    6. The free hand is the hand not carrying the racket; the free arm is the arm of the free hand.
    7. A player strikes the ball if they touch it in play with their racket (held in the hand), or with their racket hand down to the wrist.
    8. A player obstructs the ball if they, or anything they wear or carry, touch it in play when it is above or travelling towards the playing surface, not having touched their court since last being struck by their opponent.
    9. The server is the player due to strike the ball first in a rally.
    10. The receiver is the player due to strike the ball second in a rally.
    11. The end lines are the lines on each end of the table. They extend indefinitely in both directions.
  2. The Service
    1. Service shall start with the ball resting on the open palm of the server’s stationary free hand.
    2. The server shall toss the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 6 inches and then falls without touching anything before being struck.
    3. As the ball is falling the server shall strike it so that it touches first their court and then directly touches the receiver's court.
    4. From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the table and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server.
  3. The Return
    1. The ball, having been served or returned, shall be struck so that it touches the opponent's court, either directly or after touching the net assembly.
  4. The Order of Play
    1. The server shall first make a service, the receiver shall then make a return and thereafter server and receiver alternately shall each make a return.
  5. A Let
    1. The rally shall be a let:
      1. if in service the ball touches the net assembly, provided the service is otherwise correct;
      2. if the service is delivered when the receiving player is not ready, provided that the receiver does not attempt to strike the ball;
      3. if a disturbance outside the control of the player interrupts play.
  6. A Point
    1. Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point
      1. if the opponent fails to make a correct service;
      2. if the opponent fails to make a correct return;
      3. if, after they have made a service or a return, the ball touches anything other than the net assembly before being struck by the opponent;
      4. if the ball passes over their court or beyond their end line without touching their court, after being struck by the opponent;
      5. if the ball, after being struck by the opponent, passes through the net or between the net and the net post or between the net and playing surface;
      6. if the opponent obstructs the ball;
      7. if the opponent deliberately strikes the ball twice in succession;
      8. if the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, moves the playing surface;
      9. if the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, touches the net assembly;
      10. if the opponent's free hand touches the playing surface.
  7. A Game
    1. The first player to score 11 points wins the game, unless both players score 10 points, when the first player to next gain a lead of 2 points wins the game.
  8. A Match
    1. A match shall consist of the best of any odd number of games.
  9. The Order of Serving, Receiving, and Ends
    1. The right to choose the initial order of serving, receiving and ends shall be decided randomly and the winner may choose to serve or to receive first or to start at a particular end.
    2. When one player has chosen to serve or to receive first or to start at a particular end, the other player shall have the other choice. 
    3. After each 2 points have been scored the receiving player shall become the serving player and so on until the end of the game, unless both players 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.
    4. The player serving first in a game shall receive first in the next game of the match.
    5. The player starting at one end in a game shall start at the other end in the next game of the match and in the last possible game of a match the players shall change ends when one player scores 5 points.
  10. Out of Order of Serving, Receiving, or Ends
    1. If a player serves or receives out of turn, interrupt play as soon as the error is discovered and continue with the correct player serving.
    2. If the players have not changed ends when they should have, interrupt play to switch ends and continue.
    3. All points scored before the discovery of an error still count.