Ladies’ Night
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 @ 12 AM, UTC -  By: Water Pokémon Master

And today we have a second article from Martin Moreno. To discuss his article, check out this forum thread.

Hello PokeBeach fans! My name is Martin Moreno and today we are going to touch on a subject that isn’t discussed very often in the Pokemon community: the presence of female players. They are out there at events and today we are going to learn about four hand-picked players from different areas of the country. Out of the four, we have two students and two girls already in the working world that still find time to take out of their busy schedules to be Pokemon weekend warriors!

Each participant was asked several questions that concern the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I will introduce each player with an introduction based on what I know about them and their experiences in the game. I also want to add that I can personally vouch for each of their in game skills having played vs. them all (I occasionally won).

What motivated me to choose this particular subject was the stigma that surrounds women in the Pokemon community. Are girls capable of keeping up with their male counterparts? Do they belong at events? Do they have what it takes to capture a championship? If I were to personally answer that question, I would say that we are reaching ever so closer to seeing a female Regional/National/World Champion in the Masters division. I myself have treated women unfairly in the past, so I think now is a better time than ever to get the word out that we are in fact all equals. One more thing to point out is how outnumbered female players are in comparison to males. PokeBeach reaches the largest number of people out of any other Pokemon TCG-oriented website by far, so I thought to myself, we have an opportunity to show new-player prospects that the game isn’t so intimidating once you try it out and get involved. We’ll get back to some ground-breaking format strategy discussion next time, because the spotlight tonight is on these rising stars!

Note: There are a number of references to cards no longer playable in the current tournament format. You have a way to look up these cards right here at Pokebeach to see exactly what each player here is referring to if you are unfamiliar.

ANN-MARIE THOMPSON

Age: 16

Occupation: Student

Location: Southeast, US

Meet Ann-Marie! When searching in the land of God’s and Pocket Monsters, I found this angel. Her roots in this game started on this very website. In the online community, many refer to her as “AMT.” Apparently, that is an acronym for her full name. It didn’t take me that long to figure out since I am in fact a genius (sarcasm). Although, at first I was under the impression maybe her name was a reference to a popular archetype ran last season, but nonetheless, she has a following online for being very well respected in her region. I wish my name was cool enough to have a hyphen…

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

At about five or six years of age my best friend Christian and I were absolutely obsessed with Pokemon figures. We had over 300! We would play with them all the time. Even after getting all these new toys for Christmas we would always revert back to Pokemon. Pokemon has pretty much always been in my life, and one day I saw some Pikachu cards that one of my sisters had. She had a few other cards, too. That’s how I learned that there were even cards for the game. Fast forward five years and this is when I found out about the Pokemon card game. I collected a lot of NHL and NFL cards and would always look up the current prices, sell them, etc. One day I found my sister’s old cache of Pokemon cards. I decided to look into them (hoping to sell them!) and that is how I came across PokeBeach. I made an account on the forums and became friends with some of the TCG players. I spent a year or two just talking to them online and frequenting PokeBeach before I decided to go to an actual tournament. So glad I did!

2) How long have you been playing?

I’ve been playing this game for five years now. I played three years in the Senior division and am currently in my second year of the Master division.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

I have never really felt underestimated while playing in a tournament. A lot of people in this region (South… Southeast?) know me or know of me and they don’t underestimate me. I don’t think the fact that I’m a girl has led people to believe I am an easy win.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

This season has been going okay. I won my first BR of the season and played in three more, doing poorly. I went 3-3 drop at Fall Regionals and had a pretty good Cities run. This past Regionals I went 5-3. I haven’t had great success but I’ve still had a lot of fun this year.

PS: Don’t drop from tournaments. You came there to play so you might as well.

5) Your most memorable tournament moment

My most memorable tournament moment would probably be Ohio States 2009. This event is memorable for two reasons:

1) At the time, almost all of my online PokeBeach friends were from Ohio. I convinced my Dad to take me to Ohio so I could meet them. I had an absolute blast meeting them and am still friends with them to this day.

2) It was the first tournament that I won. I played against one of my newly met friends, Michael Zele, the first round and lost to him on a misplay. Everyone pointed it out to me after the game, but I just thought to myself, “Well, whatever. It’s too late to fix now.” I went on to win out and make T8. I played a funny T4 match against Spencer Brown. He was running speed Machamp and I was running Palkia G/Honchkrow G. Game 1 he mulligans a bunch and donks me. Game 2 he mulligans a bunch and I donk him. I wasn’t running any Unown G so I knew I had to win G3 quickly and I did. I played Ty Wheeler in T2 and was able to beat him. It was my first time winning a tournament and all of my friends were still hanging around and congratulated me. It was just a great experience overall.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

I love the game and I love the community. I used to complain about the game a lot but I’ve realized how much it and the community has changed my life and I’m glad to be playing. The community really is incredible.

7) What is your favorite card in the modified format and why?

My favorite card in the current modified format… definitely Rayquaza-EX. I feel like it’s one of the best cards because of its ability to OHKO every EX. It’s just such a powerful card and I’ve had pretty good success with it.

Shoutout to Curse Gengar from Arceus… sadly it’s no longer in the format. :(

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

There is really just one change that I would make to the current format and that would be the first turn rule. I think it’s completely unfair to the player who loses the coin flip. There is no disadvantage to going first and that’s an issue. The player going first needs some kind of restriction… either no attacking or no playing a supporter might work.

9) How would you improve organized play?

I would improve Organized Play by increasing the TC caps for Cities/States/Regionals. The numbers for these tournaments the past two years have been increasing dramatically. St. Louis Regionals this year had almost 400 Masters! It’s crazy to think that only the top 32 players after swiss get a chance to play in top cut with a number that high. I think the players would be very happy if the TC caps were raised for these events. I would also improve Organized Play by reinstating TC for Battle Roads. It was a weird decision for them to even remove it in the first place, especially with the Championship point system. Speaking of the CP system, I would improve upon it as well. I think this system favors the players who can travel more and attend more events. That’s not cool.

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

The event I look forward to the most each year is definitely Worlds. Nationals is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but Worlds is certainly better. I get to see my friends from all over the world and it’s just such a great experience. Last year I got to play against Yamato round one of the grinder and it was incredible. Another minor reason for my choice of Worlds over Nationals as my favorite event of the year would be because my birthday is usually the week after Worlds. In Hawaii last year my friend Amelia surprised me with a sweet dinner and even got me a birthday cake. Worlds is by far the event I look forward to the most.

Kristy Britton

Age: 16

Occupation: Student

Location: Southern California

(Kristy Britton’s favorite Pokemon is Espeon!)

Story time for a bit. Flashback to last season’s California State Championship on the Queen Mary. I was heading into round two fresh off of a loss from round one. I see the pairings and am relieved that not only have I never heard of my opponent, but knowing she was a girl, I was already under the impression I’d be in good position to eat lunch early after getting a sure win. Flash-forward about 15 minutes, and instead of sinking my teeth into a piece of pizza I was craving from the vendor outside, I was signing a match slip ready to take the walk of shame. My heart was broken at the hands of Kristy Britton!

At the beginning of this season I wasn’t very interested in playing the game competitively. There was a Battle Road in my own hometown of San Diego, and I chose to stay home and play PlayTCG online and watch Blade 2 rather than go to a tournament minutes away. Kristy Britton wins this Battle Road and proceeds to go to my Facebook wall and talk major smack (in a nice way) about me not showing up. I think to myself, do I really want to get involved in the Trading Card Game again? What should I do? When the next weekend rolled around, I decided to go to Temecula Battle Roads, only to find her there. I was really in no condition to play after being up for two days because of work, so I decided to leave. On my way out the door Kristy stops me and urges me to give it a shot and try. I reluctantly agree. And thanks to her encouragement, I managed to play my heart out and came in second place!

A little later during the Battle Road series a surprise Durant deck defeats Kristy and gives her second place. She decides to share with me that running two of the Noble Victories Terrakion in my Terrakion/Mewtwo/Roserade makes me susceptible to not only that Durant deck, but other similar builds that focus on a Sableye/Crushing Hammer disruption premise. The fact she would go out of her way to share this with me is something I have never forgotten, especially since she is the top-ranked female player in California.

Thanks to Kristy’s encouragement, I regained my competitive spirit that season and even managed to come in second place at NorCal’s Regionals. I lost to PokeBeach forum’s very own Kian Amini, but the experience is one for the ages. Kristy’s courage and kindness to challenge a hyped-up player like me is a story I found to be incredible.

So now, here’s Kristy!

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

Honestly, I wasn’t very interested in the game at first. It was my brother, Kenny, who convinced me to check the game out. We went to our first tournament during Cities in 2010 and it was a memorable experience for me. The tournament organizer, Chris Boutcher, helped us understand how everything works and it was really easy for us to catch on. Although I was reluctant to play at first, the game grew on me and now I enjoy playing the game and spending time with my Pokemon friends.

2) How long have you been playing?

This will be my third year playing Pokemon and my second in Masters.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Unfortunately there was a time where I did feel underestimated. In some cases, I could hear people saying “wow I can’t believe I lost to a girl” or people thinking that the girl participants are a waste of points. There were times when people thought I was going to be an easy win or pretty much a “bye” for the round which upsets me to feel looked down on. I hope to make a difference now and make other players think of us girls as competitors like them.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

I had a head start in points with Battle Roads, but I wasn’t able to make it past the top 8 mark in Cities. Although I’m disappointed in my performance in the last two Regional tournaments, I’m planning on getting points in the upcoming States and Regionals. This year I’m motivated for an invite – 2013 Vancouver Worlds here I come!

5) What’s your favorite tournament event?

By far Nationals. Overall the tournament is fun and exciting – I just love how competitive it is! And afterward it’s so relaxing to hang out with your friends after a long day of Pokemon. Sharing your bad beats and your amazing plays is always much more fun at Nationals. I would love to win at Nationals at least once while I’m playing this game.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

The main reason I continue to play is because I love the tournaments! I really enjoy battling other people and winning feels great knowing you earned it. I think people shouldn’t be afraid to play Pokemon because of what others might think. What really matters is whether you are enjoying yourself or not. Also, spending time with friends through Pokemon is a wonderful bonus!

7) What is your favorite card in the modified format and why?

My favorite card in this format is Professor Juniper. In my opinion, the draw power is amazing and she has powerful synergy with decks that require energy in the discard like Darkrai and Eel variants. I know everyone has had their moments of an N to Juniper or top decking a Juniper for the game. She’s a life saver!

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

If I were to change the format I would definitely add searchable Pokemon that give you outs with draw power. Pokemon like Uxie, Smeargle or Claydol to name a few. Being able to search for a Pokemon that add more cards to your hand definitely helps with consistency and gives us the opportunity to add a variety to the meta. Cards like that made other cards versatile. For example, I could Pokemon Collector for Pokemon I need to set up and an Uxie to draw more. Also, if I could, I would give more attention to types that aren’t used that much, such as Metal and Grass. Even if it’s just a few additions, being able to add counter types would help keep overpowered decks in check. Let’s be honest, playing mirror match all day gets old.

9) How would you improve organized play?

First of all, there are some tournaments that I’ve been to that weren’t… well, organized. I’ve seen amazing TOs who really care about the players and the tournament and some who don’t seem to care that much. It would be nice to see more of the amazing TOs and less of the opposite.There’s a new trend recently where some TOs are posting pairings to Twitter so that players can look at their smartphones during a tournament instead of crowding around the busy pairings, and I hope many of them start to make use of this. Another improvement is of course directed to the need for more female players. I’m aware that there are PokeMoms and girlfriends that sometimes join the tournament, but most of the time they think “I have nothing better to do” and aren’t really motivated to play which is a bit disappointing. Hopefully there will be a day where we see a lot more female competitors who play in the tournaments because they choose to and they have a desire to win.

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

I always look forward to Nationals, but this year I’m really looking forward to Worlds in Vancouver. I can’t wait and I really hope I have an invite when I’m there! There are some people who I’d really like to challenge, too. Vancouver sounds like it will be an amazing vacation spot and I have high expectations for it.

Sammy Bittinger

Age: 24

Occupation: Aerospace Engineer

Location: Mid-west

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that this girl really enjoys the game and the friends she’s made playing it. In 2009 she managed to pilot a Dusknoir/Mewtwo-focused deck to a semi-finalist Regional Championship finish. She’s the first girl to receive Regionals glass in the Masters division of the game. Regardless of the fact she has a demanding career, she still makes time for the things she cares about, like Pokemon. It didn’t take me very long to realize that she was going to be somebody I will never forget.

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

Back in the fourth grade, the kids at school had the cards. My friend gave me a Base Set Charmander card and I adored it. From there I got into all things Pokemon and learned how to play from a theme deck instruction booklet and then I started playing at a Toys R Us league. This was before we even had internet, so I used to buy all the Pojo magazines and read them from cover to cover. My first deck was a Wigglytuff Haymaker – I loved that little guy.

2) How long have you been playing?

Since Jungle. That would be 15 years or so. It’s pretty unbelievable to think that I’ve been playing that long. I guess you could say it’s an addiction. I just don’t feel right going a couple months without playing Pokemon.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Sure. I hear, all too often, comments about being matched up against a girl is an auto-win. But that’s the makeup of this community – it’s a man’s world. And any mostly-male group will have some individuals with feelings of superiority over the female minority. I get this at work too as a female in the male-dominated world of engineering. However, as the game has grown over the past fifteen years, more and more girls are playing, and more are winning. And so I think that feeling of superiority has subsided and we are becoming more respected. We’re definitely going in the right direction.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

Excellent so far. I’ve not been playing as much the past couple years in order to launch my career while maintaining my social sanity. But last month, I placed third in a 64-man City Championship with Rayquaza/Eels. Clearly, luck was with me, but I feel I made the right deck choice and right plays that day.

5) What is your most memorable tournament moment?

I’ll never forget my first premier tournament, a Gym Challenge down in Columbus. My mom actually didn’t let me go to any qualifiers for a couple of years because I was a girl – she really didn’t like the idea of me hanging around so many boys. I think I had to beg her. But that first tournament, I made top 8. I ran Meganium in the Neo-on format where Feraligatr dominated and it worked out quite well.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

Definitely the people. I love going to Nats and Worlds every year and seeing my friends from all over the nation and the world. We have this great game in common and always will. And I do actually really love the game itself. I’m glad it has grown and thrived over the years.

7) What is your favorite card in the Modified format and why?

My favorite card has always been PlusPower. I love playing it down at the end of a turn and watching my opponent sink into his chair. He thought he had it in the bag. Nope!

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

Definitely the advantage of going first. It’s always been a problem in our game. Something needs to be done there. Also, I dislike the high damage output these days. I think it takes skill out of the game and turns it more into who drew all the necessary cards to pull off the OHKO.

9) How would you improve organized play?

Actually, I really like the recent changes to OP. The Championship points invite structure of this year is cool – some players already have invites and don’t need to stress about playing more events and getting knocked out. And the lack of cash prizes really doesn’t bother me. I prefer the extension of trophies to Cities and things like that. It’s about the pride for me!

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

Nationals, without a doubt. It’s an event that everyone in the country is playing in. I love the big stage. But my favorite part is just getting to see everyone and spend time with them, and to meet new people of course!

11) How has the online world helped you improve your game?

I actually lost interest in the game around ’06, but becoming a member of an internet forum really reignited my ties to the community. It provided me with a way to make the game more of a social experience. It really drove me to up my game. Sure enough, ’08-’09 was a great season in which I placed third at Regionals and won a Battle Road.

12) How do you prepare for a tournament?

I think having limited time really kills the most in this area. Of course, I’d want to play a ton of games and know every matchup by heart to be fully prepared, but life is about choices and balance; we can’t do it all. So the important things that I focus on in the week prior to a big event are putting the list together the way I like to run things and learning the general strategy of the deck that could work in the most number of matchups. And of course, test driving it a couple of times against the dominant decks.

13) Why do you think girls are not playing this game as much?

I think the Pokemon TCG is simply targeted at males. Maybe it’s the way they are wired. They certainly have the deep-rooted competitive spirit. But girls can absolutely have that as well, as evidenced by the many successful female players out there. Competitive card gaming is just a difficult sell for females who usually hold other interests.

14) How do you balance playing the game and school/work?

Hah. Well. School and work have the priority, end of story. But I plan out my work, prioritize, and get it done so that I can go to events when I’d like to. I have to say, it’s much easier now that homework is out of the picture!

15) What other hobbies do you participate in outside of Pokemon?

I like lots of things! I’m an ex-gymnast and have been coaching for nine years now. I like to paint abstractions and draw portraiture, especially after a rough day at the office. I love to travel – last summer I went backpacking across Europe, and I’m headed to Japan in April. I have two great puppies with whom I love to spend time. And of course I love to hang with friends and family. I’m a big people person!

16) What’s it like being an engineer and what are you doing with it?

I recently graduated with my degree in Mechanical Engineering and am now working for NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m a dynamicist for Project Orion, so I design and analyze the spacecraft parts for resistance to launch vibration and acoustics. Orion is NASA’s next-gen spacecraft set to send manned missions to Mars. I really love what I do. I’m learning new things every day, working alongside my team to take mankind to our next great destination.

HEATHER LYNCH

Age: 22

Occupation: Nurse

Location: Northern Texas

Heather Lynch is the person in the Pokemon Trading Card game I have known the longest. I first met her 11 years ago at a Super Trainer Showdown qualifier. For those who are unfamiliar with game history, these events offered paid trips for top finishers to the Super Trainer Showdown which was our original version of the World Championship. However, I would compare these events more to US Nationals due to the fact there wasn’t as much of a global presence as our current system has. Most recently, I witnessed Heather pull a remarkable City Championship win where she not only beat her boyfriend (a high-caliber player from Oklahoma), she also beat a Regional Champion, and me a National Champion, all in the same tournament! It’s quite clear that Heather is not a delicate little angel when it comes to battling in the Pokemon arena – she even wears a shirt that says “I’m no angel” when playing sometimes. Right now, Heather is sitting on enough Championship points to make any guy sweat. So what does Heather have to say about her experience in Pokemon? Let’s find out…

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

We moved to Florida in the 1990s and my father discovered a Pokemon league at Books a Million and we began to go to League. At first, it was just a collecting thing, but soon after my brother and I began to play for fun. It wasn’t until 2002 that we truly started playing at the competitive level.

2) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Sometimes I think I am underestimated because I got out of the game for a while due to school and needed to focus on my studies. It was not until this most recent season that I began to make top cut and began getting points towards a Worlds invite. I think many people don’t expect me to do well at events because of this.

3) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

This season has gone well for me – at this point I have 252 points. I made top 32 at Fall Regionals and I made top 8 at Winter Regionals. I have a few top cuts at Cities and Battle Roads and hope to continue placing well.

4) What is your most memorable tournament moment?

Probably 2004′s Worlds. This was the first year I got to play in Worlds, and it happened to be in Florida! Not only did I get to enjoy the event, it was also fun to hang out at Disney World with my family. I remember making top 32 and then advancing to top 16, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

5) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

I stay involved because of all the people I have known over the years. I was a military kid, but no matter where I went, Pokemon people were everywhere and I could always make new friends. It was also an activity my family and I could do together – traveling together at least once a month, I don’t know many families that get this luxury while also doing something they love.

6) What is your favorite card in the Modified format and why?

Blastoise! Since I started with the video game, Squirtle was my Starter Pokemon, and from then on I loved the Blastoise evolution line. It just happens to be a playable card in this format. I have just always liked the Pokemon no matter how good or bad the card is.

7) Talk about what you would change in the format?

I would take away the overpowered Basic EXs. I believe that evolution decks take more skill and I would bring back the Stage 1 and Stage 2 EXs. This makes the games go longer and involve more skill. The overpowered Basics make it impossible to make a strategy, and at this point, the game has turned in to “do as much damage first turn as possible and whoever goes first has the upper-hand by far.” I think going back to the set up format and not having an absurd amount of damage done each turn would greatly benefit the players who want to actually strategize rather than just doing as much one-hit damage attacks as possible.

8) How would you improve organized play?

I would change the format structure of when events occur. There are so many events to go to and if you do not make most of these, it is really hard to get a trip to Worlds. For example this year we had the Texas marathon, and then 2.5 weeks later we were on the road to Regionals. I think this may be wearing a lot of people out.

9) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

Nationals, because I will get to see everyone I have met over the years. I become overwhelmed with all of the hugs and love I receive every year, not to mention all of the new friends I get to make each year.

10) How do you prepare for a tournament?

I prepare by testing the weeks before the tournament and thinking about all the decks in the formats and measuring the pros and cons of each deck. I usually stay with a deck that I am comfortable with and do not change decks at the last moment.

11) How do you balance playing the game and your school work?

I tend to play test at the last minute and try to squeeze in as many games as possible. I try to stay organized but spend many sleepless nights doing homework.

12) What other hobbies do you participate in outside of Pokemon?

I like to run and exercise and compete in 5K races. I also do scrapbooking and love taking pictures. I manage to also volunteer with my school at times.

13) What career are you aspiring for?

I am currently in school and I will graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in only a few months. After this is completed, my goal is to work into the Emergency Department as a registered nurse. Right now I work in a hospital as a patient care technician and it is a constant learning environment for me and I really feel that nursing is where I belong and where I will spend many years of my life.

MARTY’S FINAL THOUGHTS

I must say that this article was a lot of fun to put together. Each of these four stories are a great example that the fanfaronade surrounding male dominance in the game can now be considered archaic. These shining stars all have proven that they possess the ability to trump any opponent they face. An interesting fact to note is that first turn implications are a dynamic of the game which most of these girls agree is out of balance. I would say, most everyone else thinks the same way! That alone should tell you the game can be taken seriously at a competitive level by anybody no matter what background they come from. Hopefully, after reading this, we all can learn to be less judgmental of others and try to be more understanding that we’re all in this for fun at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading!

-Martin Moreno

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