Let’s look at the process of deciding who will get the first serve in a ping pong game before discussing the number of serves each player gets. The level of play determines the method used for this. In official table tennis games, the International Table Tennis Association rules apply. This typically involves tossing a coin or a disc with distinctly different sides.
Who will serve first?
A common method used in unofficial lower-level ping pong games is for the umpire or one player to hold both hands behind their back or under the table with the ball hidden in one hand. If the opponent can guess which hand has the ball, that player can choose who should serve first. If that player prefers to elect which end of the table he likes to start, the opponent can select the first server.
How many serves does each player get?
Each ping pong player gets to serve twice. One serve lasts until a point is scored, so after every two points scored, the service will alternate to the other player.
However, if the score is equal at 10:10 in a game played to 11 points, the serve will alternate after each point until one player has a 2-point lead, at which time the game will end.
What is a legal serve?
The ball must always be visible to both players. Therefore, the server must hold the ping pong ball on the palm of an open hand and toss it at least six inches up in the air. He must then strike the ball as it drops back to the table. The strike must cause the ball to bounce once on the server’s side of the table and then on the opponent’s side.
What if a serve strikes the net?
A legal serve that touches the net is referred to as a let, which is not scored except if the ball touches the net and then falls to the floor. If that happens, the server loses a point, which also applies if the ball goes into the net. However, if the ball touches the net and then lands on the opponent’s side of the table, no point is lost, and the serve must be repeated.