The origins of ping pong can be traced back to 19th century England, where it was a form of after-dinner entertainment for members of the English upper class. Ping pong is thought to have started out as something that British officers serving in British colonies came up with as a means of spending time between campaigning. As a result, the earliest form of ping pong saw players lining up books in a row on a table for use as a net before hitting a ball back and forth over that same “net” while using more books as improvised paddles.
Fortunately, modern players no longer have to make do because manufacturers have been churning out ping pong balls, ping pong paddles, and ping pong tables since at least 1901, which is a relief to people interested in playing some ping pong.
Here is how to play ping pong:
- Generally speaking, you need either two people for a singles match or four people for a pairs match because the limited space at a ping pong table can’t accommodate more people than that.
- Alternatively, if you want to get some practice before taking someone on in a real match, you can just push the ping pong table up against a suitable wall so that the ball will bounce back when you hit it. Keep in mind that while this is useful for getting a feel for the basics of the game, it is no comparison to the actual game.
- The first serve should be up to chance. For example, coin tosses are a simple and thus popular method for players to decide who gets the first serve. However, some players have an arrangement where one of them will hide the ball in one of their hands for the other player to guess.
- In official matches, the server has to toss the ball up in the course of serving, though this is often ignored in most casual settings. The server must strike the ball so that it lands once on their side of the court before bouncing over the net to land on the other side. Failure to meet this condition results in a let, which lets the server serve a second time. Two consecutive lets mean that the other player scores a point.
- Once the ball has been served, the other player has to return it once it has bounced on their side of the court but before it can bounce a second time. Please note that the ball must land on the other side of the court for it to count. If it hits the net or if it lands off of the table, the other player scores a point.
- The server switches with every two points. Official rules award the victory to whoever reaches 11 points first with a 2 point lead, though many players like 15 or even 21 points. If there is no 2 point lead, the server starts switches with every point for a more intense match.
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