Giving Thanks: Four People Who Made Me a Better Pokémon Player

It’s late in the evening, but I’m idle “write” now, so why not…”right” about something unique? Tonight I’d like to talk about a few people who rapidly improved my skills in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Whether it was direct testing, or network growth, or even just chilling me out, I owe a lot of gratitude to these four people.

1. Martin M: 2006 U.S. National Champion; once the self-proclaimed “bad boy of Pokémon”

How he made me a better player: Put simply, Martin was my introduction to the competitive network, and for a long time one of my closest connections. New players’ first chance to become competitive is oftentimes thanks entirely to one competitive player giving them that extra push.

For those of you who are not quite yet competitive but would like to be, this might be the next thing you need. I wouldn’t recommend going out and hunting it because that’s disingenuous, unnatural, and not fun. But when your network develops, you will develop along with it.

2. Ryan S.:  Third place Southern Plains Regional 2005; good friend and theory crafter

How he made me a better player: There’s that person who gets you to go down the rabbit hole of a competitive community, and then there’s that person who ends up being your friend forever. That right there is awesome enough, but you also get to push each other through constant talk about the game, improvement in playing skill, and of course rivalry if you play locally.

I started going to the same league as Ryan five minutes away from my house, and from there we were a super-solid team, taking down multiple tournaments together. Even to this day we have jam sessions on Facebook chat about ideas we’re brewing, and even meet up once in a blue moon for games and Wing Stop. We don’t live anywhere near each other nowadays, but it’s still a great friendship and collaboration.

(Also, fun fact: Sam Chen taught him how to play. Lol.)

3. Richard C.: Legendary Texas-area PTO; probably could’ve killed the competitive scene if he played more

How he made me a better player: For the longest time, I had no desire to travel far to any tournament except Nationals or Worlds. That’s in large part because Richard, a.k.a. Professor Birch, had offered us Texas players so many incredible opportunities to play competitively. Right after The Pokémon Company International took over the game, it was tournament organizers like Richard who were the glue to the franchise. At one point, he was even running every major tournament in three different States!

Just as important, he ran a very good league that outlived multiple stores. Before I started going to Richard’s league, I went to a league in my home town run by a very weird, smelly man we’ll call “Mr. Stinky.” Had Richard’s league not been available to me, I probably would’ve just quit the game due to how weirded-out and grossed-out I was by the old location; however, I met Richard who exposed me to a slew of world-class players, including his son Taylor.

Finally, any current Premier Tournament Organizers reading this who have been around for a while probably know Richard and think quite highly of him! He’s a great guy and I’m happy he has stayed so involved in the game, even to this day.

4. Billy K: Top eight Southern Plains Regionals 2008; co-conspirator in HeyTrainer.org; my older brother

How he made me a better player: In my teenage years, I was incredibly wound-up, lacking anything remotely akin to “chill.” I was also pretty cold when I played the great – “serious business” if you will. Then my brother started playing, and he instantly brought me down to Earth in the most positive way. Shortly after that point, I won my first Regional, following that up with multiple incredible seasons with top finishes at every event.

(It’s also nice to travel and play-test with your actual family. For a while he went to even more tournaments than I did!)

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, this was a bit of a different topic, so I hope you got a few things out of it! The people you meet in this game are oftentimes the reason why you advance in it, and in my case that’s definitely true. I’m grateful to have known everyone listed here, because this game has undoubtedly opened me up to awesome experiences, fun competition, and great friendships.

-John

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