April 29, 2022 2 min read

What is the difference between table tennis and ping pong?

If you’re new to the world of table tennis and have never heard of ping pong, this article can help you understand the key differences between the two sports. Both table tennis and ping pong share the same basic concept—you use paddles to hit a ball back and forth with your opponent—but the rules, equipment, and techniques are all different in each game.

Table tennis is played on an international level, while ping pong has become popular at home since it’s cheaper than table tennis equipment and easier to set up in your own home.

Ping Pong

An Introduction to Ping Pong Table Tennis Table Tennis History: A little bit of history about ping pong, its origins, and who invented it. In 1873, British engineers created a crude version of table tennis as they tried to entertain themselves while working on a way to keep track of ships in their shipyards.

While they could hardly consider it entertainment at that point in time, they used real tennis balls, put paddles in their hands (in place of what was known as a shovel), and attempted to use badminton rackets without knowing how. They did not know how much fun would come from their invention!

Table Tennis

The game of Table Tennis originated in England during 1899. The object of Table Tennis is to hit a small white ball, using your paddle, across a table into your opponent’s side.

There are three ways to win in Table Tennis: by scoring 21 points first; by having an opponent receive 7 penalty points; or by having your opponent fail to return any serve within 9 tries.

Different Approaches to Playing

In terms of gameplay, there are two main differences to consider. First, while a table tennis ball has more bounce than a ping-pong ball, a ping-pong ball is larger and easier to track visually. Second, on average, players have roughly 1 inch of leeway when bouncing off table tennis paddles but about 4 inches for approaching a ping-pong paddle. With practice, both forms of play can be used to great effect.

For example, in some countries, badminton rules allow for an extra foot's length in rallies when serving from below net height. It’s an area many seasoned athletes have found success with over time as it provides them with significantly more room to maneuver out from behind their defense.

Which is better

While both table tennis and ping pong offer physical benefits, what about in terms of skill levels? The age-old question of whether or not one game is harder than another will never be solved, but from a strategic standpoint, you could make an argument that one requires more patience. Each game can seem simple at first glance (just hit a ball back and forth) but to win at either requires focus, speed, footwork, accuracy, and agility.

When playing with similar players on similar surfaces (whether it's in real life or online), it typically comes down to which player has their head on straight. Ping Pong calls for sharp reflexes while Table Tennis rewards strength.

American Game Zone has an excellent collection of Table Tennis tables. Check it out here.

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