Ping Pong vs Table Tennis (10 Key Differences)

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While many people use the names “ping pong” and “table tennis” interchangeably, it’s important to understand that are some major differences that set the two apart. Understanding these differences and the effect that they have on the overall games will help you to talk about them more intelligently. In this ping pong vs table tennis guide, we'll help you do just that!

ping pong vs table tennis

Let's learn a little bit more...

Serving

One difference that most people notice right away when watching games of ping pong and table tennis is that the games start differently due to differences in serves. This is generally a huge clue to which game the players are playing for people watching the game. Understanding which type of service you are most comfortable with will also help you choose which game you want to play when you have the chance.

how to serve in pong pong exaggerated

In table tennis, players must serve by throwing the ball a minimum of 6 inches out and away from the palm and then hitting the ball from behind the line. This one type of serve results in volleys that are generally a bit gentler at first, although they can become more powerful as the game speeds up.

Ping pong players have a lot more options when it comes to how they want to serve the ball. Some prefer to use a table tennis serve, while others will let the ball bounce one time before hitting it hard. Others drop the ball and will serve before it bounces off of the table.

Branding

“Table tennis” is often considered to be the nickname of the sport, while “ping pong” was trademarked by multiple companies producing tables and other equipment. This difference in branding wasn’t a big deal at first, but it did eventually result in the game evolving the way that it did – into two distinct games.

Spin vs. Hit

Another major difference between the two is how the balls are hit. The paddles used play a huge role in the power given to the hit as well as how much spin is added.

People who enjoy playing ping pong generally do not put a lot of spin on their ball. They are known more for simply hitting the ball. The paddle itself was not designed to add a lot of spin. In fact, it has been designed to be a bit more “sticky” due to sandpaper, which prevents a lot of spin from occurring.

During table tennis, however, players try to add a lot of spin to the ball to make it harder to hit. While ping pong players tend to volley the ball back and forth, table tennis players practice ways to add different amounts and directions of spin to their balls. They focus on how they can hit the ball to make it more difficult for their opponent to be able to return it. This is key to a great table tennis player being able to improve their game and win a competition.

Paddles

ping pong paddle on a table

The paddles used for these two games can look, at first glance, like they are interchangeable. Untrained players can even make the mistake of buying the wrong paddle for the type of game that they want to play. While this may not seem like a very big deal, it can greatly affect the game and how well players are able to play.

Ping pong paddles are one shape and size and have sandpaper on them. This material helps to grip the ball and ensures that players have plenty of control over the ball without adding spin to the hit. It’s easy for players to pick up any ping pong paddle and start playing, as they are all the same.

Paddles that are used for table tennis are available in many different designs and have varying surfaces and blade shapes that are used to add spin to the ball. Since spinning can really wear out a paddle quickly, it’s important to replace them regularly for the best possible game. Table tennis players tend to have favorite paddles and prefer one style over another.

Balls

The balls also tend to vary slightly from each other, although the differences are not nearly as pronounced as they are with paddles.

Ping pong balls tend to be a bit larger than table tennis balls are. They are usually around 37 or 40mm in diameter. While this isn’t a huge difference, it is enough to affect the movement of the ball through the air and to prevent it from getting a lot of spin.

The balls used for table tennis are a bit smaller, at 34mm in diameter. While most people won’t be able to easily tell the two apart just by looking at them, great players can easily feel the difference when using the balls to play. These slightly smaller balls can go much faster, especially when controlled by a professional or advanced table tennis player.

Scoring

The scoring between these two games also varies, which is an important distinction to note if you want to play either of the games.

just scoring in a game of ping pong

Ping pong players can play games that run to 11 or 21 points. These longer games tend to have longer rallies than what are seen during table tennis games. When ping pong players play a 21 point game then they each are given five serves that alternate.

Table tennis games, on the other hand, usually end at just 11 points. These games tend to go much faster because they don’t require as many points for a winner to be declared. Additionally, each play is only given two serves before they switch servers.

Flexible Rules

There is always discussion about the rules of any game, and ping pong and table tennis are no different. Every person who grew up playing on a table seems to have some varying rules that they believe improve the game or make a lot of sense; however, one of these games is much more forgiving when it comes to rules than the other.

Ping pong tends to be much more flexible with the rules. These rules are set, just like with table tennis, but ping pong tends to be more relaxed overall. This means that players are more accepting of varying rules.

Table tennis, on the other hand, has set and strict rules. These players do not like any deviation from the rules. In fact, during tournaments, deviating from table tennis rules can cause a player to become disqualified.

Speed

Speed is another huge difference between the two games. Ping pong games are generally much slower. Beginners tend to gently lob the ball back and forth until they become more comfortable with the game, but even then, it is slow. Due to the paddles and the size of the ball as well as the lower level of competition, this game doesn’t tend to go very fast.

Table tennis players, on the other hand, try to add as much speed as possible to their hits. They rely on very high speed to try to cause their opponent to miss the ball and lose a point. Hitting the ball too gently or softly will not only cause the game to slow down, but it can cause a player to lose. It’s important to have a lot of power and speed when playing table tennis to have a chance to win.

Competition

serious person at a ping pong competition

There are huge differences in the level of competition between these two games. Players who want to get involved in either ping pong or table tennis need to educate themselves so that they can pick the right game for their desires.

Ping pong is played globally but is generally enjoyed as a recreational or hobby game rather than one that is very competitive and serious. There are many different variations of ping pong, including one that allows teams to play.

The competition when playing table tennis can get very fierce. This game is played at a highly competitive level, and many people compete at a championship level. Anyone can play table tennis, but the sport is taken very seriously.

Stance

How the body is moved and used during the game plays a huge role in the hitting of the balls and the movement of the balls across the table. The stance of the body as well as the footwork a player uses can play a huge role in success during a game.

Ping pong players do not rely as much on footwork as table tennis players do; they naturally don’t add a lot of power or spin with the movement of their bodies. While they do move during the game, they tend to be much more stationary.

Table tennis players, on the other hand, tend to use their bodies a lot more than ping pong players do. They often stand back farther from the table due to the additional power added to their hits. Using their body to add power also helps them achieve the goal of adding even more spin to the ball.

These clear differences make it obvious that ping pong and table tennis, while they may appear the same, are actually very different. When you understand how they vary from each other, then you can more confidently use the correct name in conversation and will feel more informed about them overall.