Table Tennis vs Ping Pong: Is There A Difference?

A common misconception is that ping pong and table tennis are the same sport. If you were reading this article before 2011, that would have been true, but now it’s not. They’re actually different sports! Pretty surprising, I know! I was surprised when I first learned the truth.

Is there a difference between table tennis and ping pong? First, table tennis is only played to 11 points, while ping pong is played to 15. With equipment, all ping pong players must use the same type of paddle, but table tennis players can customize their paddle. While there is only 1 major ping pong championship, there are many competitions in table tennis. 

Summary of Table Tennis vs Ping Pong


Ping Pong

Table tennis






The same





High spin

Little spin

Points per game



World Championships






But there’s more details, that you’ll want to know to get the most enjoyment from ping pong. In this article, we’ll help clarify the debate and look at the similarities and differences in our table tennis vs ping pong comparison.

What Is the Difference Between Ping Pong and Table Tennis?

First things first, are table tennis and ping pong the same? This will likely come as a surprise to many people, but table tennis and ping pong are, in fact, two separate sports.

The reason that few understand this fact is that there is very little awareness of the sport of ping pong and that it appears very similar to table tennis. As a result, “ping pong” is a very common colloquial term to refer to table tennis. 

Read More: The Beginner’s Guide to Table Tennis

History of The Two Games

Before ping pong or table tennis became official sports, they were different names for the same game. You can read more about their beginnings in our history of table tennis article here.

Table tennis was first invented back in the 1880s in 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 popularity, more and more companies started making table tennis equipment. Each brand would name its set differently. There were dozens of names besides Table Tennis or Ping-Pong, such as Whiff Waff, Pim-Pam, and many more.

table tennis vs ping pong
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 different names 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 officially became two sports instead of one.

Read More: Basic Table Tennis Skills

Table Tennis vs Ping Pong: What Are The Differences?

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

The Rules

On the surface, they are very similar. A casual viewer may not even be able to discern the difference. However, there are several rule alterations that make ping pong easy to identify.

The first is that points aren’t counted the same way. For example, the rules of table tennis state that table tennis games are first to 11 points, best of 5 or 7 games. 

This isn’t the case in the rules of ping pong. Ping pong matches are played first to 15 points, best of 3 games, with a death point at 14. However, in the semi-finals and the final, it’s best of 5 sets instead. A double-point ball grants the serving player 2 points if won and 1 to the receiving player. Each player must indicate to the umpire when they want to play their double-point ball, and they cannot use it after each player has reached 8 points.

Overall the official rules for table tennis are much more thorough, if you’re interested, you can check them out on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) website.

The Equipment

table tennis vs ping pong
A table tennis paddle

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

In ping pong, all players use the same type of paddle: a 5-ply sandpaper racket. As a result, these paddles are the reason why ping pong games play out at a much slower speed. They provide little spin and prevent players from generating as much power as in table tennis.

Another point about the rackets is that they don’t have rubbers on both sides. Instead, there are just two sandpaper sheets on either side. While these paddles are very restrictive, they are much cheaper than traditional table tennis rackets.

Players can customize their paddles to their heart’s content by shifting to table tennis. There are many types of rubber and blades to choose from. As a result, each player has the right to pick their paddle combination to build a racket that suits their style.

Are Table Tennis and Ping Pong Tables the Same Size?

Given that they are two separate sports, you might expect that the ping pong vs table tennis table size is different. However, they are the exact same. So it’s only the opposing paddles you have to worry about.


As a result of the different equipment and rules, there are separate competitions for each game. Table tennis easily beats out ping pong here. A plethora of international competitions are held yearly, including major tournaments such as the Olympics and World Championships. Ping pong, by comparison, has just one reputable event, and that’s the World Championship of Ping Pong.

Take a look at the most recent World Championship of Ping Pong event below.

Each sport has its own governing body too. Table tennis is governed by the International Table Tennis Federation, and ping pong by the World Championships of Ping Pong.

table tennis vs ping pong

So Which Is Correct?

The general consensus is that if you use the term “ping pong,” you actually mean table tennis. Very few people play ping pong, it’s just not as exciting and you need separate equipment. 

So if you’re going to play an amateur-level game with friends in your garage, feel free to call it ping pong, almost everyone does. However, you will find that if you talk about the sport among high-level players, the vast majority use the official name of table tennis.

Read: Best Table Tennis Balls


Why Is It Called Ping Pong, Not Table Tennis?

Ping pong refers to the original trademarked name for the game. The term mimics the sound of striking the ball back and forth. It’s so satisfying to say in fact, that the phrase dominates at the lower level. This is despite the fact that now ping pong and table tennis are two separate sports.

Is Table Tennis the Same As Ping Pong?

Table tennis refers to the sport of table tennis. It is an Olympic sport and features custom bats with fast, spinny rubbers. Ping pong, on the other hand, is a separate lesser known sport. It is not in the Olympics and uses slower bats that feature sandpaper instead of rubber sheets.

Is It OK To Say Ping Pong?

If you’re playing the sport of ping pong, then, of course, call it by that name. If you are playing table tennis, it’s a little more up for debate. While technically, it’s the wrong term, many people still use it, and only keen players may pull you up for calling it ping pong.


We hope this post has answered all of your table tennis vs ping pong questions. While technically they’re different, most people think of them as the same. This is especially true in the US where the name ping pong is widely used even though people are playing table tennis games rather than ping pong.

Eugene (Gene) Sandoval has been one of those guys who spent too many hours around ping pong tables in high school. However, soon enough, Gene understood that there is more to ping pong than having fun. That is how he started a journey that made Eugene one of the experienced semi-professional ping pong players in the United States. As the founder of the PingPongRuler, Eugene spends most of his time surrounded by ping pong tables and research. He always has this knack for coming up with new ping pong strategies and telling the good and bad equipment apart.