- Published on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 17:00
- Written by Mary Beth Hislop - Town Crier Staff Writer
It’s a game of high stakes – poker for little people – and the luck of the draw involves careful planning, comprehensive strategy and deliberate execution. It’s no place for whiskey and cigars.
And at the PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game Santa Clara Regional Championships April 17, 8-year-old Los Altos resident Emily Cheng scored big, winning second place, a $1,000 scholarship, a PokÃ©mon prize kit and the coveted PokÃ©mon trophy, which is prominently displayed in a china cabinet at home.
“This was my second tournament,” said Emily, a second-grader at Almond School.
Her second-place status in the tournament also netted her an opportunity to compete at the national level in Indianapolis at the end of June.
“We’re not sure if we’ll go,” said her father. “She has an invitation, and that’s terrific.”
It’s especially terrific considering Emily started playing the game in September.
“My old friend Rachel introduced me to the game,” Emily said. “She gave me my first PokÃ©mon card – ‘Solrock.’ That’s how it all started.”
“She came home one day and wanted to play PokÃ©mon,” Steve said.
Easier said than done. Learning the basics – rules and strategies – involved an Internet search. And then a search for fellow PokÃ©mon aficionados.
“I don’t actually play with people at school,” Emily said.
But she did find a PokÃ©mon League in Santa Clara that meets weekly to play the game and learn the strategies involved.
“We just had a great time meeting new people,” Steve said. “She just loved it.”
That first card is just the beginning.
“In PokÃ©mon, you have to collect the cards,” Emily said. “‘Solrock’ is really special to me. Sadly, it was out of play (at the tournament).”
At the regional competition, Emily was paired with others in five games in the 11-year-old-and-younger category – called the Swiss round – securing a place in the finals after scoring four wins and one loss.
In the first of two final games that consisted of three rounds, Emily beat a 10-year-old.
“She actually beat the top-seeded player from the Swiss round,” Steve said.
In her final competition with an 11-year-old champ, Emily lost the first round, won the second and came close in the third.
“It was a real nail-biter,” Steve said. “He was really pushed to the limit.”
For those not in the know, PokÃ©mon originated in Japan as “pocket monsters,” animated creatures encapsulated by their trainers who cared for them and prepared them to compete in sporting events. The PokÃ©mon evolve as they gain experience, becoming stronger and accumulating powers while their trainers earn badges and acclimation as they attain rank in PokÃ©mon competitions.
PokÃ©mon has since captured worldwide attention as an enduring fad that has evolved into Nintendo Game Boy games, a comic book series, movies, a video game and the trading card game. But don’t let its “game” designation fool you.
“It’s very complicated,” Steve said. “As a parent, I can appreciate that the game has some great aspects. It’s fun to play, and it really makes you think with the elements of strategy and planning.”
It’s even more difficult to explain.
But Emily doesn’t allow the game to interfere with academics – she loves science and is currently entranced with studying the behaviors of crayfish.
In the meantime, she has passed her love of the PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game to family, one of whom also participated in the regional tournament.
“My cousin got sixth place,” Emily said.
Her advice to up-and-coming PokÃ©mon players: “I would say they should start with a World Championship deck and take a month to add to it.”
It also helped to have a mentor from the PokÃ©mon League, Brian, who is in the know when it comes to the powers of each PokÃ©mon card. Emily’s secret weapon – “Claydol.”
“It has a special power,” she said. “It is one of the most reliable ways to get cards in and out of your hands.”
Emily’s enthusiasm for the game may convince her parents it’s worth a trip to Indianapolis. And if she scores big there, the 2010 PokÃ©mon World Championships are scheduled in August in Honolulu.
For more information, visit www.pokemon.com.