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How To Win At Pong (Arcade Video Game): 14 Tips / Tricks / Strategies

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Pong is one of the simplest games to make, routinely popping up in children’s beginner programming guides, such as Python. The game isn’t hard to play either. The original had two rules: “deposit quarter” and “avoid missing ball for high score,” and not much has changed. Nonetheless, there is a knack to playing Pong, and those that understand it have an edge at winning. 

The best way to win at Pong is to learn its algorithm that makes up the laws Pong follows. The game is entirely predictable once you understand how it works. The game has no surprises, from how and when the ball speeds up to the behavior of the seven paddle sections. 

Pong was designed to be played by drunks. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges. That square ball can be maddening. But if you are sober and focused, you can start to read how the game works, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll always have an edge on a less observant opponent. 

1. Play Pong With Modern Controls Can Help (Or Not)

Pong was initially played as an arcade game and then was played at home on its own console. A dial moved the paddles, sending the paddle Up or Down. Thus, the AI is still “playing” as if you are using those old controllers, even if you swop for a mouse or a keyboard.

However, your computer controllers might also sabotage your success. 

The safest way to play Pong on your computer is the keyboard. You can go Up or Down, and that’s it. But it is also the slowest way to play Pong. Some argue that certain gaming keyboards give you an edge, but others claim this is nonsense. 

However, the mouse will be faster. Thus, the mouse can give you an edge. You can even put your mouse on even higher settings and move the paddles incredibly quickly. 

All of which is brilliant, except when it isn’t. 

The mouse can also be a nightmare. First, set it too fast, and the old programming can’t keep up, and it will just glitch, and your mouse moves without taking the paddle along. 

The other issue is that the mouse does not just move up and down but all over. Nor can you “see” the cursor until you’re off the page, so it is easy to lose track of your movements. Pong gives you some leeway, but eventually, you lose connection to the paddle, and the ball bounces past. 

Thus, playing Pong with a mouse can be advantageous if you practice. 

2. Use Dominate Hand When Playing Pong On A Console

if you have the good fortune to play Pong on an original Atari console or arcade, you will have a nob controller. You roll the dial UP or Down, and that’s it. You will play strongest with your dominant hand. But if you want to give yourself a challenge (and up the likelihood of losing), play with your weaker hand. 

3. Try To Increase Window’s Size

Usually, the bigger you can make your computer window while playing Pong, the easier it will be to play. Some Pong games have a fixed window size, but others adjust depending on if you are playing on your device. So the bigger screen will be easier, increasing your chances of beating an AI. 

 Obviously, if you are playing a two-person game, the advantage a larger screen gives you is also given to your opponent. In two-player games, the person used to playing on the smallest screen will have the advantage.  

4. Start Pong On Easy Level To Learn Controllers 

The Pong controls feel different depending on what you are playing on; thus, it makes sense to play a few rounds on the easy level as you get the hang of them. Certain controls, such as arrow keys, can sometimes feel painfully slow. Thus, you need to adjust your timing to suit the tools. 

5. There Is No Spinning In Pong

Pong is not ping-pong. Pong is a 2D world where paddles can move up and down, and that’s it. There are no short shots, long shots, spins, or any other fancy move you can dream up. Pong is a very basic computer game, using what is in today’s world beginner programming skills. The game has specific rules of law, and that’s how it works. 

Play the game, not ping-pong, and your road to success will be quicker. 

6. Learn Pong’s Algorithm 

Pong operates according to a specific algorithm. Once you learn its laws, you can predict moves. No matter your opponent moves, there is a predictable consequence. Each time the square ball is hit at that specific height against that paddle section, the ball will react the same. There is no random generator to throw you off. 

7. Count The Volleys In Pong

New players to Pong often feel like the ball is constantly speeding up. But that isn’t true. The volley picks up speed on the fourth and twelfth volley. If you count the volleys, you’ll know precisely when the speed changes. However, the real kicker isn’t the “speed” but the changes it makes to the paddle. 

8. Learn Pong’s Paddle

Pong’s paddle is seven blocks high. Each block has a predetermined angle set to the speed. These angles do not change no matter how fast or slow you get to the ball. There is no fancy trick to alter how the paddle works. For example, the middle block will always hit the ball back in a perfect horizontal line. Always. 

The other six blocks have a set angle depending on the volley. Thus, there is a fixed angle for volleys 1-3, another for 4-11, and then the steepest settings for volleys 12 and above. If you watch your opponent’s paddle and count the volleys, you can, in theory, predict where the ball is going.  

9. Don’t Constantly Move Pong’s Paddle

Moving the paddle mindlessly up and down is wasted energy and isn’t distracting the AI or an opponent. It also increases the likelihood you’ll be out of position when the ball returns. Wait until you have a general idea of where the ball is going, then move your paddle. 

10. Get The Paddle There Early In Pong

The instant you think you know where you need to be, move. Then pause, if possible, and hit the ball at the last moment. This limits your opponent’s time to see where you will send the ball. Remember, if the opponent can easily see what part of the paddle the ball hits, they can theoretically know exactly where the ball will go. 

Hit at the last moment to give yourself the greatest chance of success. 

11. Try To Use The Paddle’s Edges In Pong

The paddle’s two outside blocks are what send the ball veering off the furthest, making your opponent have to move around the most. 

12. Shoot For The Corners In Pong

Try to aim for your opponent’s corners of the screens. These are “holes” in the game where the ball sails past even if the bat is right there. It’s just how Pong works. You hit the corners of the playing screen; the ball will not be returned.  

13. Learn To Predict Pong’s Serve

Pong’s serve seems random, but it is carrying on from the angle it left the screen. It’s like two screens wrapped together to make a tube. So, if it goes off-screen dead center, it is coming in from the net dead center. Likewise, if the ball exited your screen at an angle, it will reemerge from the net at the opposite angle it left. 

The best way to master this is to miss a bunch of balls and focus on how they re-enter. Sure, you lose a game or few, but once you get the hang of how the serve works, you’ll have another Pong skill to lead you to victory. 

14. Distract Your Opponent

If you are not playing an AI, a less-sporting (but potentially hilarious) way to win is to distract your opponent. The possibilities are near endless. Just remember to stay focused when you do it. Distracting your opponent with a loud fart doesn’t work if you start laughing too. 

Last Word

Pong, like any game, improves with practice. However, Pong is a predictable game that you can win if you master its laws. The algorithm is fixed, and Pong will always obey it. Once its predictable behavior becomes second nature, you’ll have an edge over any opponent that doesn’t track the details as well as you.

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.