10-year-old deals a winning game of Pokémon
June 15, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
With nimble manipulation, Connor Owens’ hands quickly slice the cards next to one another as he shuffles. His ability mimics that of the best Las Vegas dealer. His calm, cool appearance is not dissimilar from the best Texas Hold’em players on the circuit as he keeps his steely eyes locked on his opponent.
But Connor is only 10, and this game is for the pride in proving he can school his father, Dave Owens.
“He can beat me so easily,” Dave said. “There was a time I could keep up, but now I can’t.”
In just a few years, Connor has gone from collecting the images on his Pokémon cards based on what character looks coolest to being one of the best Pokémon card players in the Pacific Northwest.
Since March, Connor has conquered the state of Oregon, taking third place at the state tournament March 13, and the Pacific Northwest Region, taking fourth at the April 17 tournament.
“I just thought, ‘Wow!’” Connor said.
“He pretty much shocked himself,” his mother Deneall Owens said. “He came up to me and said, ‘I can’t believe I won.’”Connor began playing when his father found a former collector selling his entire collection online for about $30. From there, Connor began comparing the cards at school with friends and playing easy versions of the actual game. His father also found two weekly gaming clubs in Tukwila and Renton that sponsored Pokémon games each week.
“It’s another activity to keep him busy,” Deneall said. “It’s also good for him and his dad to do something together, to have that father-son time.”
While it may seem like child’s play, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into knowing how to play the game to increase your chances of winning.
Each card is unique, Connor said, and there are different types, like energy cards, spell cards and the Pokémon cards.
So, out of hundreds of possibilities, how do you know what 60 cards to put in your custom deck?
To win, you have to have the right mix of magic and monster cards to keep your opponent’s magic and monster cards at bay during a battle. The first player to kill six monsters wins.
The game is considered an intellectual sport, designed to test players’ skills, strategy and creativity, Dave said.
Connor said it’s just something he enjoys doing.
“It was kind of hard at first,” he said, throwing down another card. “But I watched people play and tried to create decks to beat them. Now, it’s easy.”
Turning back to his father, who had a hand less powerful than himself he said, “Ha! You scooped. I win!”
During tournaments, players are divided into three groups: the junior division, children born in 1998 or later; the senior division, people born between 1994 and 1997; and the masters division, people born in 1993 or earlier.
For now, Connor plays in the junior division, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. In fact, there are several players in the Northwest that top out on the world junior division charts.
For his wins, Connor was given a prize kit with new specialized cards to put in his deck and an invitation to play in the national tournament June 25-27 in Indiana.
Winners receive scholarships up to $5,000 and travel awards to the world tournament in Hawaii this August, which is what Connor said he is really looking forward to most.
While he was given a national tournament invitation, he said he’d rather take his chance at the world preliminaries. Especially since some of his friends from Renton and their families will be traveling there, hoping to play well enough in preliminary tournaments to get an invitation.
“I like the competition aspect of it. It would be really cool to win or make it into the top four,” he said, adding that even if he doesn’t win, “I get to meet more people and copy their decks.”
Up for grabs at the world tournament are numerous scholarships worth up to $7,500 and, of course, bragging rights.
“If you win, they put your deck in the magazine,” he said, holding up the game’s trade magazine. “It’s cool, because everyone sees what cards you played with. I use them, too, to figure out what some players will use in their decks.”
On the Web
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.