I first played table tennis in our basement at home. We acquired an old wooden table from my grandfather that was painted green and had a rather unsteady net. I believe it fell off the car on the way home. In spite of it being less than "tournament ready" it served its purpose and we played on it quite a bit. My father never really played any other sports with me that I can think of, but table tennis was one which he played quite well and it took me a fair amount of time before I could beat him. My older brother was also very good competition.
When I got to college I was happy to discover a table tennis table in the common room where I spent a great deal of time, often until the wee hours of the morning. There were about three or four guys that I would play against and we were all about the same skill level. One of them played in tournaments while growing up and there was a German student who's father was rumored to have won the German national tournament. We organized a tournament and I took third place, but I had beaten the first and second place winners when we had played for fun. I would sometimes play with friends that weren't as good, so I would use my left hand to give them an advantage. This was fine at first, but before long I became quite adept with my left hand so that they no longer had the advantage.
I took part in an intramural tournament were I was severely humbled. I had grown to believe I was pretty good, and expected to place well in the rankings. I was assigned to play an asian guy who stood 5 feet behind the table and cleaned up. Even though I lost, it was good practice.
Later on in college one of our dorm activities was a table tennis tournament which I organized and played in. I lost the first game I played, and since it was double elimination I went to the losers bracket, where I won every game by a substantial margin and then played the student who had beat me in the first round. I had to beat him 3 times in a row to win the tournament, which I did, much to his chagrin. It was probably not in the best etiquette to win the tournament that I organized but it was a great deal of fun and we all know that winning isn't everything.
I don't play much anymore since I don't have access to a table, but when I get a house, a table tennis table would be a great addition. I shall have to teach my children how to play because playing table tennis alone is not particularly enjoyable.
For rules and ratings, see the Offical US Table Tennis site.
Updated Oct 25, 2016