What Is the Difference Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis?

Table tennis

Table tennis and ping-pong are essentially the same game and there are no major differences between them. The real difference, however, is one of perception. Table tennis is the serious, competitive side of the sport in which people compete in leagues and cup competitions across the world, as well as in international championships.

Ping-pong is an almost identical game (although there are several variations, including the well-known game of beer pong, of course) that is played in a much more informal and social way. Whilst not all might agree with these differences, those who prefer to play the more social game of 'ping pong' may make some slight adjustments.

The Differences

In the early days of the sport, the terms ping pong and table tennis were both used and were reasonably interchangeable. However, because of fears about trademark disputes over the name ping-pong, when writing up the standardised rules of the sport the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) chose to use the words table tennis.

Today, many of the more serious players of table tennis do not like their game being referred to as ping pong. They believe the onomatopoeic nature of the word gives the wrong impression of the game making it sound frivolous and childlike.

However, the ping pong community have embraced the looser and less formal name. Focussing not on competition but on the social and fun side of the game, they tend to play a stripped down version of the game free from some of the more intricate rules of table tennis.


In table tennis, the ball is required to be thrown more than six inches upwards from an open hand and then hit from behind the table’s baseline. However, in less formal ping pong games, serves may be hit straight out of the hand or following a bounce on the table.


In modern table tennis, games go up to 11 points, players having two serves at a time. In many ping pong matches though, the traditional 21 point format is used with each player having five serves alternately.


As well as the usual singles and doubles matches, ping pong has several variations around the world. One of these is Rundlauf (round the table). Originating in Germany, it is a fantastic way for larger groups of players all to enjoy ping pong at the same time. Basically, two teams of players form two queues leading anti clockwise around the table tennis table.

The ball is served the first member of one team and then each player takes their turn at the end of the table to hit the ball before moving on and going to the back of the queue. Losing a point can mean elimination from the game of the loss of a life depending on the particular rules being played.

Although it originates in Germany, Rundlauf is becoming a more and more popular version of ping pong and can be played by between 10 and 16 players. No such group form of the game exists in table tennis.