Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis: Is There A Difference?

A common misconception is that ping pong and table tennis are the same thing. If you were reading this article before 2011 that would have been true but now it’s not, they’re actually different sports!

In this article, we’ll help clear up the debate and look at what the similarities and differences are in our ping pong vs. table tennis comparison.

History Of The Two Games

Before they became two separate sports, table tennis and ping pong were actually different names for the same thing. You can read more about their beginnings in our history of table tennis article here.

Table tennis was first invented back in the 1880s Victorian England. The reason behind its invention was that people couldn’t play the popular game of lawn tennis in the winter. And so they came up with a way to play their favorite game indoors which gave birth to table tennis.

As the sport gained more popularity, more and more companies started making table tennis equipment. Each brand would name their set differently. There were dozens of different names such as Table Tennis, Ping Pong, Whiff Waff. Pim-Pam and lots more.

Parker Brothers Ping-Pong game” Image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

English company J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked the name Ping Pong and so it was only to be used to refer to sets that were made by them. Other brands had to go by a different name and so Ping Pong and table tennis became the leading names for the same game.

In the US, Parker Brothers bought the rights to the trademark. They too prevented other companies from using the term Ping-Pong. Despite that, Ping Pong is still the informal way of referring to table tennis in the US.

It wasn’t until 2011 with the introduction of the Ping Pong World Championship that they then became two sports instead of one.

What Are The Differences?

Now we’ve looked at the history let’s look at the what some of the differences are.

The Rules

On the surface they are very similar and even watching a game they can look identical. The differences come in a few different rules that we’ll cover now.

The first is that points aren’t counted the same way. For example, the rules of table tennis state that they should play the best of 11 points over 7 games. 

This isn’t the case in the rules of ping pong however where they play to 15 points best of 3 with a death point at 14. However, in the semi-finals and the final, it’s best of 5 sets instead. There’s also a double-point ball, which grants the serving player 2 points if won and 1 to the receiving player.

The Equipment

A Table Tennis Racket

Not only do ping pong and table tennis have different rules but the equipment they use isn’t the same either.

In ping pong, all players use the same type of paddle, which is 5-ply sandpaper. As a result, these paddles are the reason why a ping pong game has a slower speed. They provide little spin and prevent players from generating as much power which has the affect of slowing the game down.

Another point about the rackets is that they don’t have rubber on both sides. Instead, you should find 2 laminated layers. Also, sandpaper rackets are cheaper than typical table tennis rackets.

With table tennis, players can get customize their paddles considerably. There are many types of rubber and blades to choose from. As a result, each player has the right to pick the combination to build a racket that suits their style.

Competitions

As a result of the different equipment and rules there are different competitions for each game. Table tennis is an Olympic sport while ping pong isn’t. However, there’s a world championship for both of them.

Each have their own governing body too, Table tennis is governed by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and Ping Pong by the World Championships Of Ping Pong

The International Table Tennis Federation’s Logo

So Which Is Correct?

Despite the differences between these two sports, people have generally come to an agreement when they refer to them. 

The general consensus is that if you’re going to play an amateur-level game with friends in your garage, you’ll probably use the name Ping Pong but actually be playing table tennis. It’s very rare that they’ll actually be playing ping pong as most people don’t even know that they’re different games!

Conclusion

We hope that helps explain the differences between the two games. Officially they’re different but in reality most people think of them as the same, especially in the US where the name Ping Pong is widely used instead of the official name Table tennis.