Regan Retzloff hopes he can play his cards right.
The 13-year-old will compete this weekend at the 2019 Pokémon World Championships in D.C., going for a share of over $500,000 in prize money. Regan plays the traditional card game; there will also be tournaments for the “Pokémon Ultra Sun” and “Pokémon Ultra Moon” role-playing video games, as well as “Pokkén Tournament,” a fighting video game. And there’s an open tournament for more casual players.
Regan, whose favorite Pokémon these days is Weezing, will be competing in the seniors division (for those born in 2005-2008) after punching his ticket with a second-place finish at the North America International Championships in Columbus, Ohio, in June. (You can watch his match, complete with commentary, on YouTube. It was a squeaker.)
“I first got into Pokémon when my friends from baseball started to play and I had Pokémon cards but didn’t know what they did,” says Regan, who lives in Cape Coral, Fla. “My parents took me to a comic shop and that’s where I learned to play.” Regan now regularly plays in tournaments, as well as in a weekly league.
Though there is competition, this weekend’s event at the Washington Convention Center is really a celebration of all things Pokémon, from a common low-CP Pidgey to a holographic first-edition Charizard.
“This is the culmination of everything Pokémon for the year,” says Elvin Gee, marketing manager for Pokémon Company International. The sold-out event will include not only the championship (which can be streamed at twitch.tv/team/pokemon), but a video gaming lounge with demo versions of “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield,” which won’t be released until November; classes for those who want to learn; and four screenings of the 2019 animated film “Pokémon Detective Pikachu.”
“We expect more than 6,000 attendees. About 2,300 are competitors coming from over 40 countries,” says Gee, whose favorite Pokémon is Snorlax. “There are no borders when it comes to Pokémon.”
Wolfe Glick knows that. If Regan is the young startup, Glick is the veteran. He’ll be playing “Pokémon Ultra Sun” and “Pokémon Ultra Moon” on the Nintendo 3DS this weekend — it’s his ninth world championship tournament (he won in 2016). This one will be a little easier to get to, since the McLean, Va., native, 23, lives in the Mount Vernon Triangle area of D.C. (“It’s the first time I’ll be able to walk,” he says.)
“I’ve made a lot of friends through the game and I have this whole community I’ve been a part of for the past nine years. I have friends where we don’t speak the same language, but we can still play Pokémon,” says Glick, whose favorite Pokémon during his childhood was Chikorita. “The reason I’ve been playing so long is I’ve got friends all over the world, and if I weren’t playing I wouldn’t be able to see them as much.”
Despite — or because of — Glick’s long history as a competitor, he isn’t cocky. “In some games, if you’re one of the best, you’re expected to win every time,” he says. “But with Pokémon, there’s a lot of luck involved and it’s a very complicated game. You can play it well and still lose; you can play it poorly and win.”
Regan is looking at the tournament a bit differently. “Pokémon is kind of strategic and I’ve always been good at strategy games,” he says. “And I play in a lot of tournaments. I’m not that nervous because I’m used to it.”
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW; Fri., 8 a.m., Sat., 8 a.m., Sun., 9 a.m., spectator badges sold out.