Author: Kevin James, Last Updated on: 24/09/2020

What's the difference between Ping Pong and Table Tennis?

(Please don't say they're spelt differently.)

Ping Pong and Table Tennis used to refer to the same sport, but it's not true anymore.

No, I'm not trying to trick you.

Let me simplify this for you. The name ping pong and table tennis have been long synonymous to one another. The recreational user base, especially in America, prefer to call the sport as 'Ping Pong' - mainly because it's easier to pronounce and is quite cheerful to hear. 

Initially, the game was referred to as Ping Pong but due to the trademark issues, 'Table Tennis' was adopted as the official name of the sport. The sport may have changed its name many decades ago, but still, Ping Pong is the name of choice for many enthusiasts.

In 2011, Ping Pong became its very own sport, with the introduction of World Championship of Ping Pong which is held every year since then. A new set of rules were adopted, and a different type of paddle was introduced to differentiate Ping Pong from Table Tennis. 

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. In this post, we'll discuss the key differences between Ping Pong and Table Tennis.

Ping Pong vs Table Tennis

What is Ping Pong all about?

Let's start with the catchier-sounding one.

The name Ping-Pong, or Ping Pang as it's known in China, is itself a big part of what separates it from the more stuffy, official title of Table Tennis.

Think of the two like artists: one may call themselves a 'visual, experimental designer' while the other goes for 'graffiti artist'.

Now, which of the two do you think sounds more fun?

The hipper, funnier Ping Pong is probably what you and I have played. I'm talking about that table set up in your friend's garage. You know the one where you said you'll just play a quick best of 3.

Several hours later and you're covered from head to toe in sweat while the words' best of 99?' are spilling from your lips.

Sandpaper Ping Pong Bats

Typical Sandpaper Bats used in Ping Pong, Source: UK Ping Pong


That all-inclusive attitude is in part a result of the equipment you'll need. Which isn't a lot!

As long as the table's flat, there's a net in the middle, a ball without a crack in it and, of course, a blue sandpaper bat you my friend are ready to Ping Pong. All the players play with the same standard sandpaper bats.

So this game becomes more of skill vs skill battle rather a battle of skill + equipment as observed in table tennis. On the similarity front, Ping Pong is played on a standard table tennis table.


Once again, it's Ping Pong's beautiful simplicity which has made it the game you and I love.

15 points and best of 3. Tie-breaker on 14.

These are rules that seemed to have been invented by a few inebriated souls who didn't want to overcomplicate things. And God bless them.

There'll be no protracted arguments and consulting of the rulebook here, my friend. You hit 15, and you move on. Simples!


Sandpaper bats mean we take things down a notch. Fast-pace rallies and high amounts of spin are reserved for the table tennis crew. 

Ping Pong is most certainly a slower-paced game, true. But does that mean it's any less fun? Ah, hell no.

Unlike Table Tennis, Ping Pong allows for offensive and defensive play at any time the player chooses.

And if you're wondering what the hell any of that means don't worry my budding Ping Pongian (not a noun, unfortunately) we'll get to that soon enough.

Table Tennis - The Real Sport?

Now to let the God Father of small bats and balls have its turn.

To say, Table Tennis is popular is to say people quite like pizza. It's big; I mean really big. It's an Olympic sport, has an estimated 300 million players worldwide and can even boast being the second most popular sport on the planet.

And for a good reason.


Think of it in terms of drag racing. You turn up with an ultra light-weight, custom-made Butterfly Zhang Jike Super ZLC, you have in your hands the Bugatti of Table Tennis Blades.

Now imagine your average Ping Pong-playing Joe whips out one of those blue sandpaper jobbies. This is the drag equivalent of a Tuk Tuk.

Now I'm not saying you can't have fun with a tuk-tuk. I'm just saying when those two go head to head I know where my money's going.


Expect none of this easy-going 3 games of 15. Table Tennis is more chess than it is checkers.

11 points in 7 games.

Clearly designed by a prime number enthusiast, when you rock up to play table tennis, you're in it for the long haul.


Remember that confusing offensive/defensive thing from earlier?

Well, let's break it down.

Offensive means smashes, drives and top-spins.

You're an animal, let loose from your cage. You run at your opponent with teeth bared and claws windmilling through the air. You might not make a clean hit every time, but you have the enjoyment of watching your opponent quiver.

Defensive means blocks, chop strokes and the patience of Buddha.

You dodge the grizzly's bites and punches and bit by bit wear the beast down. A good defensive player knows how long to wait and the right moment to attack. Then you deliver a deadly blow.

One of the major differences between Ping Pong and Table Tennis is down to style. Ping Pongers (again I'm sorry, but the word does not exist ahhh!) are free to live it up and flip from offensive to defensive as they please.

TTers must choose how they wish to play like choosing the red pill or the blue.

So Finally....

Go forth and spread the word, and the next time someone confuses Ping Pong with Table Tennis, do your duty and gently let them know just how wrong they are.

If they think you're making it all up, then why not settle it with a game of Ping Pong, or Table Tennis for that matter.

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