Is There a Difference Between Table Tennis and Ping Pong?

What is the Difference between Ping Pong and Table Tennis?

Many of you racket sport fans, at some or the other point would have wondered if there is any difference between ping pong and table tennis. In this quick piece below we look to dispel the myths around the differences and similarities between the two, and give you some of the facts about the differences between table tennis and ping pong.

So is there a Difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong?

The simple answer to this is yes, table tennis and ping pong are similar sports but with slightly different rules.

What’s the Long Answer Then?

So yep, there are differences between ping pong and table tennis and we have listed those below.

The Name

The reason why the table tennis authorities couldn’t officially use ping pong as their name is because it was already a trademark registered by the Parker brothers through Hamley in 1900.

In those early years, there were both, “Ping Pong Association” and “Table Tennis Association”, registered around 1901, but they merged thereafter. Which meant, at one stage, both, ping pong and table tennis meant the same.

In fact, even now, the more casual fan has the tendency to use the two names interchangeably but professional players are more particular about the name, often disliking the allegedly frivolous-sounding ping pong.

Officially, the sport is called table tennis too; after all it’s not called the International Ping Pong Federation, right? The ITTF, or the International Table Tennis Federation, uses the words table tennis throughout their website and laws.

Interestingly, till about 2011, they meant the same sport too with fans in USA opting to use ping pong even as the sport was called table tennis around the world. After that, ping pong became a sport of its own, even hosting a standalone tournament by the name of World Championship of Ping Pong (see below).

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The Paddles

The biggest difference between table tennis and ping pong is the manner in which the paddles used for the sports are constructed.

Ping pong players use sandpaper bats, which reduces the game speed and allows the less serious players to become a part of the game as well. On the other hand, table tennis paddles or rackets have a trampoline, sponge-like effect on them which allows players to extract a lot more spin out of them.

The aforementioned difference is further accentuated by the fact different table tennis players go for their own type of rackets depending on their styles while ping pong players have just one choice of paddles.

There are other differences obviously. They are explained below.

The Points

Table tennis is played over 11 points every game; i.e. a player who gets to 11 points with a difference of two wins the game. At 10-10 there is a tie-breaker and the first to get a lead of two points from there on, wins the game.

Earlier, table tennis was played to 21 points per game with that same rule on the need for a difference of two at 20-20.

Unlike that, ping pong sees games of 15 points but there are no tie-breakers at 14-14. The player winning the next point clinches the game.

The Service

Table tennis rules mandate players to toss the ball up to 15 cm at least and ensure the ball is not hidden from view for the opponent. Ping pong players need to toss the ball and can serve from the palm.

The Play

All in all, there is a sense of informal play in a ping pong match, usually punctuated by a bit of fun in the garage or in ping pong parlours. At times it also leads to games like beer pong – a party game – but then again given there is a world tournament played for ping pong, there is always that element of seriousness involved too.

Table tennis is all serious stuff. Played by professionals at the highest level for both, ITTF Ranking points and prize money, it is one of the most played serious sport in the world.

What is the World Championship of Ping Pong?

This is a ping pong tournament that began in 2011 and is also called the WCPP. Promoted by Barry Hearn, who is the founder and chairman of Matchroom Sport, the competition allows only wooden ping pong paddles which have sandpaper sides, thereby slowing the pace of the matches down and making live viewing more interesting.

The first edition of this tournament was held in Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas before the competition was moved to Alexandra Palace in 2013. All the editions through to 2020 at least have been hosted by this new venue at London.

The list of winners at the World Championship of Ping Pong so far:

  • 2011: Maxim Shmyrev beat Ernesto Ebuen
  • 2013: Maxim Shmyrev beat Sule Olaleye
  • 2014: Maxim Shmyrev beat Ilija Lupulesku
  • 2015: Andrew Baggaley beat Alexander Flemming
  • 2016: Andrew Baggaley beat Maxim Shmyrev
  • 2017: Yan Weihao beat Alexander Flemming
  • 2018: Wang Shibo beat Huang Jungang
  • 2019: Andrew Baggaley beat Wang Shibo
  • 2020: Andrew Baggaley beat Alexander Flemming

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Here’re the differences between table tennis and ping pong in a gist.

Table TennisPing Pong
Format sport played by professionals at the highest level.It's less formal, played in a more social environment with multiple variations.
Servers have to toss the ball at least 15 cm.No such rule around tossing the ball while serving.
Games are played till 11 points (with a difference of two).This operates with the 15 point-rule with no scope for a tie-breaker at 14-14. Sudden death, winner of next point wins the game.
Earlier, players had five serves apiece before before the serve turned over to the opponent. Now it's two apiece.Each player has two serves before the serve turns over to the opponent.
The organising body for the sport is called ITTF (or the International Table Tennis Federation).There is no such separate organising body for ping pong.
The table tennis rackets (or bats) have a sponge-like, trampoline effect which allow players to impart spin. Higher skills needed. Ping pong has slower, sandpaper rackets which make it tougher to impart spin. Longer rallies are a norm as a result.
There are multiple table tennis tournaments including the Olympics, World Cup and the World Championships.There is a World Championship of Ping Pong but it is not an Olympics sport.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at

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