Ping Pong vs Table Tennis: Key Differences & Similarities

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The debate around ping pong vs table tennis is one that elicits a lot of tongue-wagging from enthusiasts of these respective table games. Up until recently, most people used these two terms interchangeably and justifiably so, at least to some extent. This begs the question: are they one and the same thing or totally different?

Traditionally, table tennis has often been considered as an upgraded version of ping pong while the proponents of the first sport say the opposite is actually true. That’s to say ping pong is a watered-down version of table tennis. So, which school of thought is right, or both are correct?

In this explainer article, we’re going to take an incisive look at the major (and minor) differences and similarities between ping pong vs table tennis. In this way, we hope to clear the air once and for all on the ping pong vs table tennis debate. Let’s get right on it, shall we?

 

Are Table Tennis and Ping Pong the Same Sport?

The answer is a resounding NO; ping pong and table tennis are no longer one and the same sport.

While many newbies ask this question out of curiosity, the pro players know that there are numerous differences between ping pong vs table tennis in terms of gameplay, rules, equipment, scoring, the level of spin, and much more, as you’ll find out ahead.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: back in the day ping pong and table tennis were originally considered to be the same sport. In fact, the vast majority of players around the world then assumed ‘ping pong’ were American slang for the game of table tennis. It’s fun to pronounce, catchy and rolls off the tongue easily.

Over the years, however, the two table games have graduated into almost totally different sports. Let’s find out how and why.

First Things First: A Brief History of Ping Pong vs Table Tennis

It’s been called whiff-whaff, ping pong, and other monikers that mimic the gameplay. Table tennis, like most parlor games such as badminton, started out as an indoor adaptation of popular outdoor sports, which in this case was lawn tennis.

Table tennis traces its root back to the 1880s Victorian era when lawn tennis enthusiasts and players wanted something similar to play during cold winter months. As you might notice, there’s a striking similarity between two, with table tennis being a miniature, indoor version of lawn tennis. The only distinct difference is that the hard table takes the place of the lawn court.

British table tennis & related equipment J. Jaques & Son invented the name “Ping-Pong” and registered it as a trading name in England in the late 1800s. The first table tennis equipment sold by the British firm went by the brand Gossima. These included cork and rubber balls, which frankly didn’t sell well given the novelty nature of the game.

  1. Jaques & Son later transferred the rights to the “Ping-Pong” name to the American board game company Parker Brothers who trademarked it in the US.

By the early 1900s, table tennis had become so popular as a sport that there were several tournaments being held, some with more than 300 participants. The Ping-Pong Association was the first governing organization formed around the sport. However, it changed names in 1922 to The Table Tennis Association.

The English Table Tennis Association was born in 1927 under the stewardship of Ivor Montague, who is often credited for putting the game on the world map. Accordingly, the debut world table tennis championship was held in the same.

Table tennis moved from a modest slow game to a high-paced batting sport thanks to the invention of a sandwich rubber. That meant players could play using high-bounce sponge rubber paddles. Here is a top-rated example:

 

Stiga Pro Carbon Performance-Level Table Tennis Paddle

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STIGA Pro Carbon Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket with Carbon Technology for Tournament...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm

Highlights:

  •     Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket with ITTF Approved Rubber for Tournament Play
  •     Features Carbon Technology for Power and Speed; Performance Ratings- Speed: 99 Spin: 100 Control: 80
  •     7-Ply Extra Light Blade, S5 Rubber, and 2mm Sponge

Review:

STIGA Pro Carbon has over the years become a darling of both intermediate and advanced players, as it offers up a raft of top-of-the-line features. It’s well-known for the incredible speed and superior spin-quality, an area it rates 100/100.

STIGA Pro Carbon features a seven-ply ultra-light wooden blade with 2mm of cushioning sandwich sponge, S5 rubber coating, and carbon fiber. It’s the two layers of carbon inside that provides superb response and impressive rigidity with every shot, spin, and serve.

Players love the shock-dispersing tube design that dissipates vibrations and other accuracy-impacting energies through the handle. That’s unlike other paddles that send the shocks through the player’s hands. It’s a bit heavy, so it may take some time to get accustomed to it.

Just imagine how a topnotch sponge rubber paddle like the STIGA Pro Carbon could have upgraded your gameplay in the 1950s with its excellent features. In the coming six decades, table tennis gained more and more traction, so much so that it was officially inaugurated as an Olympic Games sport in Seoul in 1988.

Note that, up until 2011, there was little to no distinction between ping pong vs table tennis, depending on who you asked. Some players, especially rookies, saw ping-pong (mind the hyphen) as a hobby or sociable version of table tennis.

If you think about it, ping pong was, and still is, the name that most amateurs used to refer to their friendly table tennis games held in basements, man caves, garages, or rec rooms. Playing ping pong in dorm social halls, clubs, and bars has also caught on.

More advanced players, however, take table tennis to be a serious sport and think the name ping-pong gives the impression that it’s not. Even so, in some way, table tennis and ping pong were considered to be essentially the same game. It’s how the two games were perceived that was the real difference.

Everything changed in 2011 when ping pong ceased to be the same sport as table tennis. It graduated into its own game with distinct rules for gameplay, equipment, and scoring. Even before then, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has always shied away from using the name ping-pong in a bid to avoid trademark troubles. That’s where the first difference between ping pong vs table tennis comes in.

Ping Pong vs Table Tennis: What’s the Difference?

Now that we’ve established ping pong and table tennis are no longer the same sports game, it’s imperative to dig into their differences. Perhaps the main difference between ping pong vs table tennis is that the latter is more stuffy, serious, and competitive with well-set rules than the former.

Here are other major areas where the difference between ping pong vs table tennis is apparent:

(1) Governing Body

Interestingly, there’s no unifying body or association governing ping pong across the globe. Yes, there’s the World Championship of Ping Pong (WCPP), an annual ping pong tournament that is held at the Alexandra’s Palace in London, UK.

Since its inception in 2011, the tournament has been organized, promoted, and hosted by Match Room under the leadership of English sports personality Barry Hearn. The 4-time champion Andrew Baggaley is the current title holder after defeating Alexander Flemming.

Although ping pong in and of itself has no hard-set standard regulations, the WCPP stipulates that participants must use old-style sandpaper wooden paddles. The reasoning behind this is to encourage longer rallies and slow down the gameplay for the purposes of increasing entertainment value for the live audience.

On the other hand, the governing body for the sport of table tennis is the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The ITTF is charged with the task of writing up, regulating, and revising the official table tennis rules (collectively called ITTF Laws of Table Tennis), as well as seeking out technologies for the sport.

The ITTF also oversees and maintains the extra Regulations for International Table Tennis tournaments and competitions. In essence, this body governs table tennis associations in all participating countries.

The International Table Tennis Federation is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. They organize multiple international tournaments year-round, including the mother of them all: the World Table Tennis Championships, which has been around since 1926.

(2) Gameplay Rules

Gameplay rules are another aspect that draws the line between ping pong vs table tennis. It’s true, both sports can be played in singles and doubles configurations, in which two and four players are involved respectively.

In table tennis, however, players play for the best of 11 points, in 7 or fewer games. Whoever scores 11 points first wins. Ping pong, on the other hand, plays 15 points best of five for final & semi-final games, and best of three for regular games. If there’s a tie, it can be broken at 14 all (also called sudden death point).

What makes ping pong gameplay somewhat fascinating is the double-point ball rule. It’s what it sounds like: once in every match, a special ball (usually white instead of the traditional orange) is used for one serving. If the server wins the play, they receive two points, and one point goes to the receiving player if it’s lost.

Different service rules also set the distinction between ping pong vs table tennis. In ping pong, which most players feel is more informal, serves can be thrown upwards (there’s no minimum height) before hitting, bounced first, or hit straight out of an open hand. There are no hard and fast service rules here — simplicity is truly the beauty of playing ping pong.

When it comes to serving a ball in table tennis, the official ITTF service rule is clear: the player must throw the ball at least 6” upwards from an open palm. Not just that; the player must also hit the ball right from behind the baseline of the table.

(3) Playing Style

As far as playing style goes, the difference between ping pong vs table tennis is visible. While table tennis is a fairly fast-paced sport featuring a substantial amount of spin (backspin, front spin, sidespin, etc.), ping pong is rather slow with a medium amount of spin. In some tournaments like the WCPP, the spin is even more curtailed due to the use of the sandpaper.

Because the ITTF has approved a variety of racket styles, table tennis has a distinct defensive and offensive playing style. Defensive play is all about getting the table tennis ball over the net with the aim of making a point regardless of how the player does it. That’s where defensive strategy paddles like Killerspin JET400 come to the player’s rescue:

 

Killerspin JET400 Smash N1

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Killerspin JET400 Smash N1 Ping Pong Racket – Intermediate Table Tennis Racket|...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm

Highlights:

  •     STEP UP YOUR LEVEL OF PLAY – Killerspin JET400 Smash N1 table tennis racket features ITTF-approved competition rubbers and a premium wood blade for competitive play. This premium paddle is engineered for an all-around, dynamic play style.
  •     SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION – The blade is constructed of 5 layers of wood and covered in Killerspin’s Nitrx-4Z rubbers. Flexible PVC tape surrounds the ping pong racket to protect the perimeter.
  •     SPEED AND CONTROL – Our JET400 table tennis bat is designed for the optimal balance of speed and control. The wood handle is flared for comfort and offers unbeatable control and power. Nitrx-4Z rubbers allow for powerful spin shots

Review:

High-performance Nitrx-4Z rubber. 5 layers of lightweight, premium wood. Personalized memory book storage case. And a fair price. The Killerspin JET400 is the ultimate table tennis racket for durability, cost, and unmatched quality. It scores high marks for control and speed, with modest spin.

While this is an ITTF-approved paddle engineered for a dual-play, all-rounder, it provides a superior & dynamic play style that’s perfect for defensive playing. Most pro players applaud its flared handle that offers ergonomic comfort during rigorous play.

In table tennis, players who prefer the offensive playing style find themselves hitting the ball further from the baseline. Typically, this style of play calls for a responsive and snappier yet heavier bat like the Eastfield Offensive Professional Table Tennis Racket:

 

Eastfield Offensive Professional Table Tennis Racket

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Eastfield Offensive Professional Table Tennis Racket

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm
$119.95 $160.00

Highlights:

  •     It’s the perfect custom table tennis racket for intermediate/advanced players.
  •     The ITTF approved Eastfield 2.1mm A-Pro rubbers provide fantastic speed, spin, and control (Rating: Speed = 9/10, Spin = 9/10, Control = 10/10)
  •     The Eastfield Ashwood 7-ply blade offers awesome feeling, exceptional feedback, and minimal vibration, plus it has a flared handle for comfort

Review:

Advanced and intermediate players will fall in love with this bat as it’s custom-made and easy & comfortable to hold thanks to its flared handle. This is a tournament-ready paddle designed for the pro player who wants to add more tact and power to their gameplay.

What makes it an attacking player’s best tool is the 2.1mm A-Pro rubber with a medium-hard sponge. It can not only generate an impressive amount of spin but it’s also fast-acting (but not insane fast) and offers outstanding ball control. This means the player will have no trouble keeping even the most spinny shots on the table.

The blade also sports seven layers of Ashwood, offering great feedback, fast shots, and reduced vibration. Together, these features make Eastfield Offensive the best racket for attacking play.

The good thing about playing ping pong is that you don’t have to worry about the other players having an advantage over you. As such, ping pong players can blend both defensive and offensive playing styles during play. The difference between ping pong vs table tennis in terms of playing style has led manufacturers to produce offensive, defensive, and dual-play paddles.

(4) Scoring Rules

Aside from gameplay, there are different rules between ping pong vs table tennis for awarding scores. As we’ve mentioned, table tennis plays 11 points best of 7 games. That means the game over is at 11 points if there’s a gap of a minimum of two points between the winner and the loser.

In ping pong, on the other hand, the scoring stops at 15 points. Unlike table tennis where there should be a difference of at least two points at the stoppage time, the final score of 15-14 is still a winner in a game of ping pong.

(5) Equipment

When you consider equipment used in ping pong vs table tennis, you’ll find several similarities and differences. For example, both sports use the same hard-surface table with a post & net system and standard orange or white balls. ITTF, however, dictates the standard dimensions and weight of the tables and balls used in official table tennis tournaments, leagues, and competitions.

The real difference between ping pong vs table tennis equipment comes in the form of rackets. Note that the official name for the table tennis bat is a racket, whereas it can also be called a paddle or bat in ping pong.

Table tennis players can use custom rackets, which come in various construction styles, including pips-out rubber, pips-in, carbon, and so on. On the contrary, ping pong players have only one choice of a racket: sandpaper paddles. In a nutshell: all ping pong players use the same type of bat, which isn’t the case in table tennis.

Official Table Tennis Equipment

Naturally, there are no restrictions on the kind of table you can use for table tennis practice or friendly matches. However, the ITTF regulates equipment used in official table tennis matches, including the table, balls, nets, shoes … the whole shebang.

i) Table: An ITTF regulation table tennis table must measure 9 ft (2.74m) long and 5ft (1.525m) wide around the surface. The regulation height is 76cm (around 2.5ft) above the ground level. Also, the distance from the playing surface (tabletop) to the top of the net on its entire length must be 15.25cm (roughly 0.5ft).

A classic example of the best regulation table for table tennis is the STIGA Advantage detailed below.

 

STIGA Advantage Competition-Ready Indoor Table Tennis Table

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STIGA Advantage Competition-Ready Indoor Table Tennis Table 95% Preassembled Out of the...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm
$410.32 $449.99

Highlights:

  •     Competition-ready table with 10-minute QuickPlay design comes 95% preassembled out of the box for quick and easy setup
  •     Effortlessly roll and transport table halves using 3” lockable casters for convenient storage and setup; Easily attach and remove net with tournament grade 72” clamp-style net and post set
  •     Excellent playability with 5/8”-thick tabletop with multiple roller coat finish and silk-screen striping

Review:

This regulation size table checks all the important boxes: it’s affordable, sturdily-built, and of exceptional quality. It’s best for practice at home, in the club, or office. Despite the official size, this is a fairly lightweight model.

The durable tabletop is ⅝-inch thick, super smooth for a topnotch spin, and consistent bounce with every strike. The table sits on a powder-coated steel frame with steel legs and three-inch lockable casters. Thanks to this sturdy construction, it can stand up well to repeated & rigorous play without rolling away or wobbling.

The stand-out feature is the rubber leg levelers that allow the player to adjust the height as they see fit. It also safeguards the floor from abrasive steel legs that can leave ugly scratch marks. Once the game is over, it folds compact for easy storage.

 

ii) Rackets: The ITTF stipulates that an official table tennis racket blade must be rigid and flat. It can come in any shape, weight, and size. However, natural wood must comprise at least 85% of the blade thickness. If used, reinforcing fibers like compressed paper, glass fiber, or carbon fiber must not be more than 0.35mm thick.

The side that hits the ball must be covered in pimpled rubber (pimpled either inwards or outwards – it’s your call). The distribution density of the rubber pimples must be within 10 – 30 per sq. cm. Range. If you think about it, there’s a lot that you can customize in table tennis vs ping pong paddle.

A pro player should not skimp on the table tennis racket. Luckily, top-tier brands like Butterfly, STIGA, JOOLA, Killerspin, and Eastpoint Sports have designed the best rackets for offensive or defensive play. If you really want to stay ahead of your opponents, choose Killerspin JET200 reviewed below.

 

Killerspin JET200 Table Tennis Paddle

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Killerspin Jet 200 Table Tennis Paddle, Recreational Ping Pong Paddle, Table Tennis...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm

Highlights:

  •     SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS: The perfect table tennis paddle for learning basic strokes and perfecting ball control, this racket is designed for recreational ping pong players who want to improve their game
  •     SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION: Blade consists of 5 layer wood and Jet Basic rubbers to perfect your skills, while flexible PVC tape surrounds the ping pong racket for protection
  •     PERSONALIZED MEMORY BOOK: Store your ping pong paddle in a gift-worthy storage case and record scores, collect signatures and write personalized messages

Review:

Gift-boxed in a beautiful carrying case, the Killerspin JET200 is designed for the table tennis player who wants to take their gameplay up a notch. The design brings together Jet Basic rubbers, PVC tape, and 5 layers of exquisite wood, giving the player full control of the game.

With this paddle, you can strike the ball with amazing precision and stun your opponent with fast, razor-accurate shots. The grip is fabulous, as the paddle feels fantastic in your hands. It comes with a memory book, allowing you to jot down all your big scores.

 

Official Equipment for Ping Pong

Paddles: In ping pong, unlike table tennis, all players use the same equipment, which is sandpaper bats. These paddles only have 5 layers and sport a sandpaper side designed to give plenty of feedback and control of the ball while slowing down the gameplay.

Comparing ping pong vs table tennis paddles, these don’t have two rubber layers on either side. Instead, ping pong bats have two laminated layers (one of which has sandpaper finish).

Pros of Sandpaper Ping Pong Bats

  •     The sandpaper laminate layer helps decelerate the ball and its spin. This results in long rallies and therefore the player has more time to react. With slower gameplay, players of all ages and skill levels get to enjoy the game.
  •     Another big difference between ping pong vs table tennis rackets is in the price. Ping pong sandpaper bats are usually much cheaper than an average table tennis racket.

Cons of Sandpaper Ping Pong Bats

The game is less enjoyable for the audience as it’s usually slowed by the sandpaper paddle

The sandpaper on the paper generates minimal spin and speed, so the game won’t be challenging enough for advanced players.

There are several different brands that produce sandpaper paddles for official ping pong games. Perhaps the most popular one is the Champion Sports Sandpaper Face Ping Pong Paddle (reviewed below).

 

Champion Sports Sandpaper Face Paddle

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Champion Sports Sandpaper Face 5ply Laminated Table Tennis Ping Pong Paddle red...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm

Highlights:

  •     Laminate sand face paddle with a 5-ply wood blade
  •     Spin-Speed-Control Ratings: 1-5-8
  •     A straight wooden handle for easy maneuverability.

Review:

Ping pong players looking for the best sandpaper face bat, the Champion Sports Sandpaper Face Paddle is their best choice. As expected, the paddle features a 5-ply wooden blade design, which is an apt option for the hours of exciting game action.

Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned player, Champion Sports Sandpaper Face Paddle has got you covered. It’s easy to maneuver thanks to its straight wooden handle.

 

Ping Pong Table: Some ping pong tournaments and leagues require the use of regulation size table tennis tables. However, players can use just about any size ping pong table, some of which come at ½, ⅔, or ¾  regulation size. This makes it possible for beginners, children, and players of all levels of play or practice.

Take the JOOLA Midsize table, for instance. This compact ping pong table is ⅔ regulation size, which makes it ideal for space-constrained rooms. Find out more about this gorgeous little guy below:

 

JOOLA Midsize

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JOOLA Midsize - Regulation Height Table Tennis Table Great for Small Spaces...

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Last update was on: August 13, 2020 8:40 pm
$119.96 $219.95

Highlights:

  •     MULTIPLE USE TABLES: Multi-purpose table halves are great for entertaining when not in play. Perfect for crafts, playing poker, board games, or any other casino table game. Great table tennis equipment for kids and adults.
  •     NO HASSLE, QUICK SET-UP & COMPACT STORAGE: Midsize Table Tennis Table comes 100% preassembled. The 2 separate halves feature legs that easily fold underneath like a card table. Easily stored in closets or under the bed.
  •     REGULATION QUALITY: Standard table tennis table height with a smaller surface space perfect for compact areas like apartments, kid rooms, basements, or dorm rooms. Feels like you’re playing on a regulation-sized ping pong table at 2/3 the size.

Review:

JOOLA is a beloved brand in the world of ping pong, and the Midsize is ideal for smaller spaces. Spanning 36 inches wide x 72 inches long x 30 inches high, it’s approximately ⅔ the size of the official table tennis table. The small footprint allows it to fit comfortably in basements, garages, dorm rooms, and apartments.

It’s widely loved for its compact storage. All you have to do is fold in the steel legs, detach the two table halves, and stow them underneath the bed or inside a closet.

 

Conclusion

In many ways, table tennis and ping pong are almost an identical game. When you take a closer look, you will find multiple differences between ping pong vs table tennis, especially when it comes to equipment, scoring, gameplay rules, and playing style.

 

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