Why Do Ping Pong Players Touch the Table?

Ping-pong players may touch the table for several reasons, including buying time, regaining composure, psyching out their opponent, or because it’s a habit.

However, the most common reason is to wipe away sweat.

To casual viewers, table touching may seem pointless, but it serves a purpose for every player who does it. I’d say it’s pretty much solidified in table tennis culture at this point, as it’s quite common.

Below, I discuss every reason why ping pong players touch the table.

Is It Legal To Touch The Table?

ping pong player about to serve

Before you start touching the table, you should be asking can you touch the table in table tennis?

The short answer is yes. While the ball is not in play, the rules state that you can touch the table as much as you like. However, you should know you can’t touch the table with your non-playing hand during a rally.

Read More: The 10 Best Ping Pong Paddles: Reviews And Buying Guide


Why Do Ping Pong Players Touch Table?

ping pong player staring

1. To Wipe Away Sweat

What is the main reason table tennis players touch the table? To me, wiping away sweat is how it all began. Sweat can be a real problem for players. It negatively affects grip, making it difficult to adjust after serving or switching from backhand to forehand (and vice versa).

The problem is that players can only towel every 6 points to ensure smooth play. This isn’t an issue often, but if you’re playing in a hot environment, you may want your towel after just a few points.

This is where table touching comes in. Players can remove the sweat from their hands onto the table (gross, I know!), so they walk around the side of the table to touch close to the net. Here, the sweat won’t interfere with the ball’s bounce.

2. To Buy Time / Disrupt Rhythm

The second most common reason for touching the table is to slow the game down. This can be for a few reasons. Perhaps you are on match point and need extra time to plan your next serve. Alternatively, your opponent may be on a streak and in the zone. You want to disrupt their rhythm to remove their edge in this situation.

Sometimes, these table touches, or the ones discussed below, are plain as day. Players only touch the table with their fingertips or make light contact. Such a motion removes almost no sweat, so this is not the reason for the action.

3. Habit

In my opinion, the third most common reason for touching the table is simply because it is a habit. Players may start touching the table for sweat reasons or to buy time, but naturally, they evolve to do so because it is a part of their routine.

Almost all players have a routine in table tennis, such as bouncing the ball on the floor or on the table. Mine is cutting across the ball with my paddle, adjusting my racket to counter the spin, and then catching the ball.

4. Psyche Out the Opponent

Touching the table with the non-playing hand can also be a means of psyching out the opponent. However, it’s far less common than the other reasons discussed thus far, and it doesn’t exactly do a great job of doing this.

When players wipe their hands on the table, they slowly walk around the table to do so. This tends to convey a sense of composure and confidence, which may psyche out the opponent.

Yet, in all honesty, there are far better methods if this is your goal. Players more commonly shout, talk to themselves, or try to stare down their opponent. Ever heard the term “Cho-le?” Many professionals use this meaningless phrase as a form of mental warfare in matches.

Read More: Table Tennis Footwork: The Ultimate Guide


Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Touch the Table in Ping Pong With Your Playing Hand?

You can touch the table with your playing hand, regardless of whether the ball is live. This differs from your non-playing hand, which can only touch the table in between points.

Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.