Is it Weird that Ping Pong Players Wipe their Hands on the Table?


For many first time viewers, the sight of a ping pong player wiping their hand on the table can seem rather confusing. While this act of touching the table might seem like part of the rules, there is actually a series of unofficial reasons why this happens during professional games.

You see, players will sometimes move away from the table when a point is in play. As soon as this point is won or lost, these players will move closer to the table and check they are within an arm’s length before the start of the next point. It should go without saying that a quick touch of the table is the fastest way in which to ensure they are within the required distance.

Now, this all sounds perfectly straightforward but there are more reasons why ping pong players wipe their hands on the table. In this article, we get to the bottom of this curiosity and explain the various reasons why you often see this happening during a ping pong match.


Why Ping Pong Players Touch the Table in Between Points

There’s a couple of reasons why players might wipe their hands on the table and believe it or not, habit is one of them. It’s true, some players develop a superstition-like quirk over the years and simply touch the table as part of their way of staying focused. It also makes sense because slowing down the game can help with alleviating nerves or releasing tension in much the same way as scratching your nose. And this is an especially powerful habit that some players rely upon to relax in times or pressure and maintain a healthy state of mind.

On the other hand (excuse the pun), sweat is the most likely reason why a player will touch their palms or fingers on the table. It might seem a little rude but sweat can significantly impede a player’s game and cause the paddle to slip out of their hands while playing.

When you think about it; wiping the table is also a lot more effective than wiping your palms or fingers on clothing. After all, it’s quicker to wipe this sweat away on a hard surface and fragments of fabric are always likely to stick to sweaty hands when it comes to clothing.

Now, in case you might be asking yourself; why not wait for a break in play?

It’s often necessary for players to get rid of sweat before an interval…


Professional Intervals and Wiping Out of the Way

ping pong player

As for the reason why professional ping pong matches only allow towel breaks every six points. This is simply an interval in pro games and one which players need to wipe away any sweat or residue which has accumulated on their hands and fingers. For this reason, players will sometimes try to remove sweat or residue by touching the ping pong table during a game.

But even a cheap ping pong tables should have a perfectly clean and dry surface, and so players will always touch a part of the table on which the ball is unlikely to bounce. For instance, players often touch the table up near the net or somewhere along the baseline when it comes to discarding any rubber nubs that have become loose from the paddle during play.

That is to say, as, with even the best ping pong sets, rubber nubs will sometimes fall from a ping pong paddle during play. When these small fragments land on the table, a player will usually lean forward to wipe them clear.


Using Mind Games for Psychological Advantage in Ping Pong

ping pong

The truth is, every ping pong player will touch the table for a different reason. In fact, some professional players even use this touching motion as a means of delaying the game and gaining some much needed time when under pressure. It’s also used as a means of distraction on occasion and even aggravating the opponent in order to gain a psychological advantage.

You might know or imagine this routine to be quite a cunning strategy and not dissimilar to something that often happens in snooker, baseball, and other sports. That is to say, snooker players will often take their time to frustrate an opponent, while baseball pitchers can cause the batsman anxiety with this same approach. Needless to say, these are just a few examples.

It’s important to emphasize on this point because mind games are highly influential in such a fast-moving sport. More specifically, ping pong matches are incredibly fast and this is even true in between points. Players can quickly fall behind by two or three points and find themselves in the midst of a bad run of form. With this in mind, wiping a hand on the table can slow things down and enable the player to grab some much-needed space and breathing time.

Moral of the story: Some players seem to touch the table “for no reason” and many of these players are very successful when they take this approach in professional ping pong games.


Final Thoughts

Some ping pong players develop a habit over time that sees them touching the table for no apparent reason. It happens in many sports and mostly without the player even knowing that it happens. If these same players did not wipe their hands on the table, it might disrupt their flow, and potentially interrupt their concentration during the game. That being said, excess sweat is the main reason why you see this happening, and removing this residue is a matter of comfort and practicality when it comes to a player’s grip on the paddle.

Either way, it can seem weird to see players wipe their hands on the table for the first time but sweat is a bad thing in ping pong and every little helps in terms of concentration and whatever mind games you might wish to play.


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