Pokémon Championship Events Guide: My On-the-Ground Coverage

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We’ve all been involved in special moments in the world of Pokémon. For me, these moments include battling the Elite Four for the first time with a loyal team of six Pokémon (including Blastoise), cheering as Ash Ketchum’s Muk defeats a Bellsprout in the Indigo League, and finally adding that last card to complete my Pokémon Base Set binder.

All of these moments provided lasting memories that I will always enjoy. Whether you play Pokémon video games, watch the Pokémon anime, or collect and battle with trading cards, there are special moments for everyone.

Among my friends, I am the encyclopedia of Pokémon knowledge. For better or worse, I have forgotten more about Pokémon than most people will ever learn. But when it comes to competing and testing my knowledge on the biggest stages, I’ve found that watching the action is good enough for me.

Bottom Line Up Front

Official Pokémon events fall under the Play! Pokémon program. Events range from small events at a local card shop to large, international events with thousands of people from across the globe.

While you can train your Pokémon or build a deck to be the very best, you can also enjoy watching these events as a spectator both in person and virtually. There is something for everyone at official Pokémon events. Find one in your area!

Official Pokémon Events: Casual to Competitive

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

Pokémon runs a variety of official events through the Play! Pokémon program. While there are now countless games in the world of Pokémon, the Play! program focuses on the mainline video games (VGC) and the TCG. Since these two aspects of the Pokémon universe have been around for more than 20 years, they have staying power and recognition that some of the other Pokémon offshoots do not.

Pokémon Unite, Pokémon GO, and Pokkén Tournament are examples of other Pokémon games that offer both casual and competitive play, but these newer entries have either just entered the spotlight of competitive action (GO and Unite) or only offered competitive action for a handful of years (Pokkén Tournament).

Something for Everyone

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

Official Pokémon events offer a fun way to meet people in your community and win prizes. For me, it isn’t always easy finding people who enjoy Pokémon as much as I do. At some of these events, you’ll come across people who are more knowledgeable than Professor Oak! But don’t worry, Play! events have divisions so things don’t get too overwhelming. The three divisions are based on age.

  • Junior: ages 13 and younger
  • Senior: ages 14–17
  • Masters: age 18 and older

These divisions help ensure that younger players won’t get overwhelmed by the strategies used by more experienced players. When I was about 10, I played in my first League tournament.

After winning my opening match against someone my age, I had to play someone who was at least 15 (though at the time they seemed much older). That match didn’t go well for me, and I’m glad that in recent years Pokémon made adjustments to prevent these situations from happening.

Play! Pokémon Events Overview

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

Events begin at the local level with the Pokémon League. League is open to both VGC and TCG players who are looking to have fun and learn more about the games they enjoy. While some people use league events as a way to practice tried-and-true strategies, others might just be using their favorite Pokémon to have a good time.

Both options are fair so long as both types of players respect each other. I have played in several casual league events, and enjoy the mix of serious and just-for-fun players.

There is another type of event for TCG players called prerelease tournaments, which involve testing out the latest TCG sets before the official release day. These events are casual and fun before everyone begins with roughly the same deck-building pieces.

For more competitive action, Play! Pokémon Championship Series offers opportunities for trainers to prove their worth against stiff competition. Events in the Championship Series take place throughout the year and include a progressive structure from local to worldwide competition.

For Championship Series events, Pokémon has adopted an open play system where anyone can register and play, provided they follow the rules and criteria required to enter a given event. Smaller, local events run early in the season are typically run by local card and/or video game stores.

Ask your local store if they run any events or know of any in your area. In some larger cities, multiple stores run events so you can pick your favorite store or the one that schedules events that best fit your availability.

Local events are given different names in the Play! system but effectively follow the same formula. For the TCG, League Challenge and League Cup events offer local competition and the chance to practice for significant events later in the season.

Prizes are typically awarded to those who place high in these events. For VGC players, Premier Challenges and Midseason Showdowns offer similar competition and prizes as the TCG events. These events are also open to anyone, typically by registering for play at your local card store.

Regional events are the next step up from local events. These Play! events include more prestige, prizes, and visibility. Pokémon usually streams several Regional events per year on Twitch (twitch.tv/pokemon). Due to the visibility of these events, the winning decks or VGC teams generally help shape the metagame for future events. Registration for these events is open to the public, usually online at the Play! Pokémon website.

International Championships are held four times per year, once on each of the continents where large player bases for Pokémon games exist: Latin America (usually South America), Oceania (usually Australia), Europe (country chosen varies), and North America (usually the U.S.) These events are a big production for The Pokémon Company International.

All are streamed live on twitch, and prizes can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars for each game. While open to the public (registration for these events follows registration for Regional events), these events are generally dominated by well-known players who travel worldwide for events.

The Pokémon World Championships is the most prestigious annual event held by Pokémon. Traveling to a different host city each year, entry into the World Championships is entirely merit based. Trainers must acquire enough points from official events (such as Regionals or Internationals) to receive an invitation to the World Championships. Winners of this event are remembered forever.

Huge scholarships, Pokémon merchandise, and the thrill of victory await those who emerge victorious at this event.

Your Adventure is About to Unfold

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

So how do you become a World Champion? First, you must choose your game to play. In recent years, the Pokémon TCG has been the most popular (by the number of entrants) game in the Play! Pokémon event scene. There are many resources out there to learn how to play the Pokémon TCG. You can download a current rulebook here: pokemon.com/us/pokemon-tcg/rules.

You can learn how to play online using the Pokémon Trading Card Game Live mobile app. You can also learn from YouTube videos or a friend or family member. However you learn, remember that you need a 60-card deck. The two major formats used in TCG battles are Standard and Expanded.

Standard uses a rotating list of cards from sets released in the past few years. Changes to what is included in the Standard format are announced on Pokemon.com. The standard format rotates out a select amount of older sets following the World Championships each year. The Expanded format includes cards released from the beginning of the Black & White era (~2011) onwards.

This format is unique in that it allows for creativity in deck building with cards that might be ten years apart but work well together. In the past, certain Regional events used the Expanded format; however, recent events have focused more on the Standard format, as that is the format used for the International Championships and the World Championships.

The Pokémon video game championship series follows a different formula compared to the single-Pokémon battling with which you might be familiar. In this format, battles are conducted using a two-versus-two battle. Each trainer begins with a battle of six Pokémon and selects four to bring to battle—two to start the battle and two in reserve.

Pokémon allowed to battle are restricted to whatever is allowed during the current Series—a ruleset created by Pokémon. Changes to the ruleset are announced on the Play! Pokémon website.

Other notable rules include item clause and species clause: no two Pokémon can hold the same item, and you cannot have two Pokémon with the same Pokémon number. Though this seems simple enough, the double battles are complex chess matches of strategy.

To learn more about how to play competitive Pokémon at this level, I’d suggest watching YouTube videos of past events to learn about successful strategies and teambuilding. Other Pokemon games included in the Play! series include Pokémon Unite, Pokémon GO, and Pokkén Tournament. Pokémon Unite and Pokémon GO first joined the Championship series events in 2022.

These are specialized games that require just as much skill, preparation, and execution as other Pokémon games. Pokémon Unite (released in 2021) is a multiplayer online battle area (MOBA) game, similar in style to the extremely popular League of Legends.

Pokémon GO is based on the battling system built into Niantic’s hit mobile game first released in 2016. Both games are free to play but have purchasing options for aspects of each game. Learning how to play each game at a high level requires studying, practicing, and patience.

Watch and Learn

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

Even if you don’t want to play or can’t commit the time or money to become a World Champion, you can still be involved. I have two children who are still too young to understand or play Pokémon and I don’t have the time to play at a high level, so I enjoy events as a spectator.

Being a spectator has helped me learn aspects of many different games and appreciate people who compete in the spotlight. For local events, spectating is free as you can just watch matches at the nearest table. For larger events (Regionals and above), spectators must register for events online, the same as if you were playing. There are registration fees, but they come with TCG booster packs and a badge.

If you do get the itch to play at the larger events but are too late to register as a competitor, you can always see if the event is hosting any side events.

These smaller-scale events are open for a small fee and award points for placement which can be redeemed for prizes. Side events are less pressure and more smiles and laughs. One year, my friend and I lost a side event VGC doubles match to two seven-year-old girls. I’ll never forget that!

The Fun Don’t Stop

There’s always something to do at an official Pokémon event. Even if you are just there to watch, you can always challenge a friend or acquaintance to a casual match as other battles play out around you. If you go to events, you’ll see lots of people doing this.

These casual matches are also a good opportunity to ask questions and learn from more experienced players. Don’t be afraid to question choices of Pokémon or playstyle, but be polite and thank people for helping you be a better trainer!

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

One underrated aspect of attending large events is the chance to buy official merchandise, modern or vintage trading cards, plushies, shirts, and other Pokémon memorabilia.

For International Championships and the World Championships, there is a Pokémon Center outpost stocked with popular and event-specific merchandise. Additionally, large card stores may travel to these events all buy and sell cards and other Pokémon merchandise.

Buying and selling at these events is a great opportunity to see rare cards or hard-to-find items. I traded in several rare cards I had no personal attachment to and bought a 1st edition shadowless Base Set Blastoise, one of my all-time chase cards. That alone made the event worth attending!

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Photo by Anthony Bresnen

Even if playing or purchasing isn’t up your alley, you can just hang out with friends or even volunteer. Large events span three or even four days, so you can make it a weekend activity. Volunteering your time is a great way to give back to the community and support younger players.

Typically larger events require some experience before volunteering. I recommend you start by volunteering for League events at a local card shop and learning as much as you can before you try to move on to the bigger events.

Can’t Be There in Person? Attend Virtually!

You can watch Pokémon events live on Twitch, typically at twitch.tv/pokemon. Both the trading card game and video game are streamed on separate channels—check out each game’s Category page to find to follow Pokémon’s official accounts and get notified when the streams are live.

Even if you don’t catch the streams live, you can watch videos on demand of the events on Pokémon’s YouTube channel. Check out the playlist titled Play! Pokemon: Full Broadcasts.


Question: How do I Attend a Play! Pokémon Event in my Area?

Answer: Check out Pokémon’s event webpage to find local events. If the events are at a local card shop, you might just need to show up. Give them a call and see if anything else is required ahead of time. For larger events, preregistration is required on the Play! Pokémon website.

Question: How do I Learn how to Play Standard Format for TCG or Doubles for VGC?

Answer: Watch and learn! YouTube or Twitch videos of well-known players or streamers testing different ideas and Pokémon are great ways to learn both games. You can also practice the TCG or VGC online.

Question: Do I Need to Register as a Player to Attend Official Play! Pokémon Events?

Answer: No, you can register as a spectator (if necessary). Just being part of the crowd is a fun way to attend events. Think of it like attending a sporting event—find a player or Pokémon to cheer for and get invested!

Pokémon Championship Events Guide Conclusion—Attending Events Your Way

If you want to start attending Pokémon events in person, now is a great time. Head over to events.pokemon.com/en-us/events for events in your area (if you are located in the U.S.) Brush up on your skills to face other trainers in battle, or message your friends and make a plan to attend an event as a group.

There is something for everyone at official Pokémon events. Cheer your favorite trainer or Pokémon to victory, learn new games, and meet Pokémon fans from around the world. Professor Oak said it best: Your very own Pokémon legend is about to unfold! A world of dreams and adventures with Pokémon awaits! Let’s go!

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