What Do The Stars on Ping Pong Balls Mean? (Explained)

There are stars on both rackets and balls in table tennis, but as you may know the stars on rackets just mean you should avoid them. That’s not the case for balls though, but what do the stars on ping pong balls actually mean? We’ll explain that in this short article.

What Do The Stars on Ping Pong Balls Mean?

The stars on table tennis balls signify what standards they follow. 3 stars is the best and maximum rating, in other words the highest quality ball. Thus 1-star or no star balls will be of lower quality. 3-star balls are the only ones used in competitions, and follow the exact specifications on how a ball should be.

Here are ITFF’s official guidelines for balls:

  • Ball is spherical in shape, evenly so
  • Should be at least 40 mm wide. The diameter should be 40mm and if exceeding – no more than 0.5mm
  • It weighs exactly 2.7g
  • The ball is made of celluloid or plastic
  • Orange or white in color, and needs to be matt

If a ball doesn’t meet this criteria, the ball can not be played in official games.

How Are the Stars Defined?

The stars on a ball are set after quality rules, and how close to the standards they are. The manufacturers actually make the balls with a 3-star in mind, but they don’t all get there. The ball is first manufactured, then tested to standards, and lastly it’s marked with amount of stars.

How Many Stars Is a Good Ping Pong Ball?

A 3-star ping pong ball is the absolute best, nothing less should be used when competing. Although any starred ball is fine when training, you won’t notice that much of a difference.

Many people swear by 3-star balls and say they can’t play with anything worse, but there honestly isn’t that much of a difference. Sure, it’s noticeable if you’re an experienced player, but you can still play with 1-star or no-star balls.

Is There a Difference in Table Tennis Balls?

There is a difference in table tennis balls, especially if you compare a 3-star ball to a non-starred ball. No-star balls are only supposed to be used for recreational purposes.

No-star balls can have a weird bounce, break way more often and be made in the wrong dimensions. Compared to 2 or 3-star balls which will perform much better overtime and can easily hold multiple months before breaking. *Read more about how long balls last here!

Do I Need to Buy 3 Star Balls?

Of course you don’t have to buy 3-star balls. If you’re not going to use your own balls in competitions, 3-star balls are not necessary. One or two-star balls are more suitable for practice if you want to save some money. These are still of good quality and will hold up multiple months, but costs a tad bit less.

3 Star Table Tennis Balls vs 1 star?

3-star balls are of the highest quality, most durable and will last the longest. 1-star balls though will break and lose their shape quicker. 1-star balls also can’t be used in official matches, only 3-star balls are allowed.

What Does 40+ Ping Pong Ball Mean?

“40+” is printed on the new plastic balls that are legal in competitions. The “+” means it’s of the new size (40mm), if the ball doesn’t have a plus, it’s likely an old celluloid ball. Make sure to only get balls with 40+ printed on them.

40+ is because ITTF changed the rules about the size of the balls. They are now supposed to be 40mm, but are allowed a maximum of 0,5mm difference (hence the “+”-sign).

What Type of Ping Pong Balls Do Pros Use?

Professional table tennis players only use 3-star balls. This is because just a very minor difference in balls for them will make a huge difference. JO Waldner even said he notices if a window is open when performing his serves.

What Balls Are Used in the Olympics?

In the Olympics, like with any other competition 3-star balls are the only ones used. The Olympics change balls pretty frequently, but throughout the years balls have been from Nittaku, Double Fish and DHS.

What Is the Official Table Tennis Ball?

There are no official table tennis balls. The “official” balls are 3-starred and follow the guidelines from ITTF. If you are unsure if your balls can be used in competitions or not – here is a full list of legal balls.

Final Words

You now have the answer to what the stars on table tennis balls mean and the importance of it. You don’t need 3-star balls when training. The 3-starred balls need to be used in competitions and will last the longest.

Buying high quality 3-star balls is worth it. If you tend to step on the balls though – maybe not…