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How to Play Ping-Pong

Learn one of the world's most popular games. It's actually good exercise, too!


  • Step 1: Decide who goes first Decide who serves first by flipping a coin.
  • TIP: It's easier to play with two players when first learning the game.
  • Step 2: Serve the ball Start by serving. Hold a paddle in one hand and toss a ball at least six inches up with the other hand. Before the ball bounces on the table, hit the ball with the paddle so that it bounces once on your side of the net, flies over the net, and bounces on your opponent's side.
  • Step 3: Return the ball Wait for the player receiving the serve to hit the ball back over the net. The ball can only bounce once on the returner's side of the net. Players continue to hit the ball back and forth until one player commits an error.
  • TIP: Learn to put a spin on the ball when you serve or return it. Spinning the ball makes it harder for your opponent to return it with speed and accuracy.
  • Step 4: Award points Award one point to your opponent for the following errors: your serve does not clear the net; it clears the net but doesn't hit the other side of the table; or you hit the ball more than once or touch it with your body. If your serve hits the net but the ball still bounces over, serve again with no penalty.
  • Step 5: Alternate serves Alternate serves every two points.
  • Step 6: Play a game Continue playing until one player has 11 points with at least a two-point lead. If one player reaches 11 points and their opponent has 10, play continues until one player gains a two-point lead. In that case, service alternates between the players after each new point instead of after every two points.
  • TIP: Win the match by winning any odd number of games.
  • Step 7: Play doubles Try doubles. In doubles, the player on the right on each team serves. The serve must bounce once on the server's side, clear the net, and bounce once "cross-court" on the opposing team's right side. Team players alternate returning the ball, and take turns serving.
  • FACT: The speed of a ping-pong ball in a champion match can approach 70 miles per hour.

You Will Need

  • A coin
  • Two or four players
  • A ping-pong table
  • Paddles
  • Ping-pong balls

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