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Return of the pocket monsters

For most college students, the Pokemon trend ended with Pogs and Tamagotchis, but there are still some who are trying to “catch ’em all.”

In case you were hibernating in the late ’90s, Pokemon, run by Pokemon USA – a subsidiary of Nintendo – became a “global cultural phenomenon,” according to The Pokemon name is attached to a TV series, movies and a trading card game (TCG) based on the Nintendo video game.

Tomorrow the Imperial Swan Hotel in Orlando will play host to the 2007-2008 Pokemon TCG Regional Championship. The regional championships are taking place in 15 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, with winners moving on to the National Championship next month in Columbus, Ohio.

Pokemon Organized Play (OP) “gives players of all ages and skill levels across the globe a chance to compete for prizes and the rights to call themselves a true Pokemon Trainer,” according to

Matt Moore, a junior majoring in mass communications, will compete in the event.

“(Pokemon) got me through some tough times when I was a tween,” Moore said. “I used to play with my friends when it first came out, and I was pretty good. I could beat everybody.”

Though it had been several years since Moore had played, once he found out about the tournament he bought some cards to re-learn the game.

The regional tournament will be played Swiss style, meaning that players will participate in each round, regardless of whether they win or lose, according to At the end of a round, winners are awarded one point and each player is matched with an opponent with a similar record.

“You get to choose (from) 500-plus cards to assemble the deck,” said Heidi Craig, Florida Premiere Tournament organizer. “The main goal of the game is to build a 60-card deck in the modified format that includes the Holon Phantoms through the current set, including some promo sets.”

There are three divisions in the tournament: juniors (born 1997 or later), seniors (born 1993-96) and masters (born 1992 or earlier).

“Masters is actually our most popular division,” Craig said. “I predict there will be around 70 participants in the masters division. Overall, all divisions have seen an increase in participation.”

Pokemon itself has also received increased attention. Although the Pokemon TCG has some tough competition with games such as Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and Yu-Gi-Oh!, “Pokemon is actually back up to No. 1 in America again,” Craig said.

There are several incentives for past Pokemon players to dust off their cards and compete.

“As well as free booster packs and other Pokemon merchandise, you can win up to $1,500,” Craig said.

Though Moore enjoys the game, he admits that the cash prize is what convinced him to compete. With student debt and low funds, he said, it’s difficult to spend a lot of time training without a reward.

“If I win, I’ll play again,” he said. “If I lose, I’ll sell my cards on eBay.”

If it’s been a few years and your card-playing confidence needs a boost, there are local leagues that can help perfect hopeful players’ strategies, or just teach them the basics. Every Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Pokemon enthusiasts gather at the Baseball Card Clubhouse off of Hillsborough Avenue to play, trade and earn prizes.

For more information on tournaments in Florida, visit, or for directions to the clubhouse, call 813-882-8390.

Regional Competition Info:

When: Sat., April 12Registration is free and from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.Event starts at noon.

Where: Imperial Swan Hotel, Orlando, Fla.1-800-327-2000 (Mention Pokemon Championship to get a discount.)