Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis

Have you ever wondered if there was a difference between ping pong and table tennis? They seem to be interchangeable for most people who enjoy the game as a fun, social experience. However, more serious players will tell you differently. While they are very similar, there are some distinct differences between ping pong and table tennis.

Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis


Table tennis as a sport has been around since the Victorian Era. During this time, lawn tennis was a popular activity in England. However, it was impossible to play in the winter. As a solution, creative individuals created a game similar to lawn tennis that could be played easily on a parlor table. This is how table tennis was born.

As the sport became more popular, toy makers began to package equipment under a variety of names including ping-pong, wiff-waff, pim-pam and others. Ping pong was the most popular of the names and was trademarked in England by J. Jaques & Sons Ltd in the early 1900s. The trademark was bought by Parker Brothers who began producing table tennis sets in the United States. From that time on, in the United States Ping-Pong became the informal name of table tennis.

Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis

Differences Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis

For most people that play this confusingly named sport for fun and recreation, the name ping pong, is the frequent choice. However, prior to 2011 the name table tennis referred to the game played competitively. The nomenclature for the game is one difference. It is not the only difference however. Here’s a look at some of the other differences between ping pong and table tennis.

Equipment: the one solid similarity between ping pong and table tennis equipment is the table. Both games are played on the same size table. This is where the similarities end.

Table tennis uses a more complicated and customizable paddle. The table tennis paddle has rubber faces which increase speed and spin. Ping pong paddles on the other hand, are faced with a fine grit sandpaper. This reduces spin and slows the speed of play.

In most cases ping pong and table tennis use the same kind of ball. However, competitive table tennis balls are frequently a slight bit larger than ping pong balls.

Serving: In competitive play, the way you serve the ball is different between ping pong and table tennis. The table tennis serve must be tossed at least six inches above the table surface and hit from behind the baseline of the table.

Ping pong service is more relaxed, even in competition. The ball in ping pong can be served after a bounce on the table or directly from the hand without a bounce.

Scoring: This is the most distinct difference between the two games besides the paddle differences. In table tennis games are scored to 11 points, with a match being 5 to 7 games. In ping pong, non-competitive games are usually played to 21 points. However in competitive ping pong games are played to 15 points with a match being 3 games.

In 2011, ping pong became an official competitive sport with the first World Ping Pong Championships. Today, it is no longer just a game for garages and rec rooms. However, while being similar in their play, rules and equipment, ping pong is still largely considered a social game, while table tennis is the game for highly competitive individuals.

Tom Erickson