Jason Martinez never expected to compete at the Pokemon Trading Card Game World Championships last weekend. He showed up at the event not knowing if he would qualify to compete. If he placed in the top-32 category in a competition the day before the event officially started, Jason would be allowed to compete. He placed first, making him eligible to play for the remainder of the competition.
Not only did Jason compete, but he won second place in the junior division.
“It was hard because there were other people from around the world,” he said. “I didn’t know if they were good or not.”
Jason advanced to the final round where he played against a 9-year-old boy from Japan. The battle lasted an hour. Tsubasa Nakamura beat Jason in the last round, but that didn’t upset Jason.
“I was happy,” Jason said. “Even though I lost, I made it to the top two [competitors] at the finals at the world championships.”
While most of the participants had been invited to the competition after winning at the national level, Jason showed up without an invite as a “last-chance qualifier.” After Jason qualified, he grew increasingly nervous as the competition wore on through Friday and Saturday.
“Every time I would play a new match, the competitors would be harder [to play against],” he said. “At the end, I felt exhausted. I couldn’t think anymore.”
More than 1,100 players traveled from all over the world to the Hilton San Diego Bay Front on Aug. 14 to 16 to compete in the championships. They came from as far as Japan, Germany, Denmark and Yugoslavia.
Jason was satisfied with winning second place, bringing many prizes.
“I was happy because I got lots of things that I had never seen before,” he said.
The prizes included a $5,000 check, a box of new Pokemon cards, a glass trophy, a custom Nintendo DS game system and a $6,000 Pokemon card. There are only two other cards like it in the world. He also won two round-trip tickets to Hawaii and a free invitation to next year’s world championships.
Jason is still deciding on what to use the money for. He might use it to buy more tickets to Hawaii for his family or to buy a DSI, a hand-held Nintendo gaming device, for his brother. He also might use it to buy a gift for his mother, Tess Martinez.
She did not accompany him to the tournament, but she was happy when she got the news that he won, she said.
Jason’s father, Jesus Martinez, was also happy even though he doesn’t understand the game.
Jesus Martinez took him to the tournament and met a lot of other parents who also didn’t understand the game.
“I still don’t like to get into it,” Martinez said. “I just watched him play.”
His mother isn’t very fond of the game either, she said.
“I don’t understand the game,” she said. “I’d rather play golf than cards.”
Jason took an interest in playing Pokemon about a year ago. He practiced every Sunday at Game Empire in Pasadena, where other Pokemon players of all ages gather to play games and tournaments.
“It helped him develop his skills,” Jesus Martinez said.
During the summer Jason practices playing Pokemon for about three hours a day.
However, during the school year, Jesus Martinez doesn’t allow his son to play Pokemon until Friday night. Jason is a good student, his mother said.
“My favorite subject is math,” he said. “Pokemon is about math, too. You have to figure out how much damage you need to do to knock out your opponent’s card.”
He plans on attending the event again next year.
“I just have to practice even more,” he said.