“The End of the Line” – Lessons, Experiences, and Memories of the 2017-18 Season

“PND”—Post-Nationals Depression.  Dating back to the days of US Nationals, especially coming to prominence over the last few years of the tournament’s existence, it refers to the effect of spending 4 days at the biggest Pokemon event of the year, among friends from around the country (and now world!)…and then returning to real life.  The scourge of many a player, it costs the economy untold amounts of productivity in the week after the event.

In all seriousness, I can’t say I feel that effect this year as much as “Post-Nationals Immense Relief.”   45 weekends have come and gone since this crazy ride got underway in Fort Wayne, IN last September, and I’ve spent more than the supermajority of them who-knows-where playing a card game among some of the best people in the world.  The goal: a Top 16 finish in the North American Championship Point rankings, to acquire a travel award and Day 2 invitation to the 2018 Pokemon World Championships.  I outlined most of the motivation behind that in a writeup a few months ago, on a March day where I was yet still quite naive as to what was to come.  More on that later, though.

With this past weekend’s North American International Championships in the history books, I can finally say this chase is over—and I survived it to place 13th.  I’m an incredible mix of happy, relieved, grateful, and thoroughly exhausted.

More than anything else I write here, I want to underscore that this has been an unimaginably incredible experience, one which I’m eternally grateful to have been able to undertake.  I have had the opportunity to see more of the world in a year (also, the last 8 weeks) than most Americans will see in a lifetime and to make friends across the globe.  That’s never something I can begin to complain about.

To be sure, there are days where I wonder what else I could have been doing with life, days I wish I’d pursued other things that came about, and days where I wonder what might have been.  There were weeks of this season where those days outnumbered the ones where this felt like a good idea.  I am not particularly good at the idea of leaving the past dead—what’s the fun in that when I could imagine 100 different pasts instead?  I will never know what could have been, though.  All I can know is that this has been incredible.

But on the flip side, the unavoidable consequence: I’m entirely burned out at this point.

Today, I’m going to talk about as many different aspects of this season as they come to me.  Each is sub-headed and will probably be mostly independent of each other.  I hope some of you find some of it interesting, but I’ll readily admit this is at least partially a selfish cleanse of the past 10 months—or 8 years, in some cases—of craziness.  This is it for me at the highest level—the Top 16 chase isn’t something I can imagine myself undertaking again.  This is what I’ve learned on the way.

Opinions, feelings, and memories follow.

Around the World and Back

“5 continents, 8 countries, and 90,000 miles…”

That’s not an Amazing Race finale open, though your confusion is understood.  A few weeks ago, some ignorant sap wrote about this year’s travel involved with a Top 16 chase before he had any real concept of what June looked like.  Said ignorant sap proceeded to have quite the month.  If only he knew then!

That 90,000 miles figure is a low estimate if anything, leaving out a few out-of-the-way connections, and certainly ignoring things like League Cups.  It’s also entirely way too dizzying to think about for too long, although, honestly, the entire season sort of just turns into an incomprehensible mush the more I think about it.  It’s been a very long “year”—longer than any 12 months I can remember, for sure.

Between school and this whole card game thing, it’s been a long time since I could appreciate January 1 as the start of anything.  Instead, my idea of a “year” has generally revolved around late August/early September.  After all, that’s when the annual World Championships happen and when school gets back underway—the culmination of the last 11 months and the start of a new 9 at the same time.

Over the last “year”—well, here’s a map:

And, since that map is a bit confused in the middle, this is the North America-only version:

As I said, it was about 90,000 miles of insanity.  But really, part of my exhaustion (and I daresay burnout) at this point is the amount of travel that was concentrated in the last stretch of the race.  In May+June, my weekends were spent in:

May 5: Salt Lake City

May 12: Toronto

May 19: Ohio (Cups)

May 26: Roanoke

June 2: Madison

June 9: Singapore

June 16: Mexico City

June 23: Mexico City

June 30: Mercifully, only Grand Rapids for a day.

July 7: Columbus

Where’s the time for this?  In essence, Monday-Thursday I was a Chemistry student on a compressed semester, and Friday-Sunday I spent somewhere doing this.  It was doable for the 8 weeks of Chemistry, but I’m fairly sure things would’ve turned fairly south in a lot of ways had I needed to stretch this any longer.

To be truthful, the academic year itself wasn’t too entirely difficult to “balance,” at least in the sense that I chose to do it: when merely attempting to get good grades and play Pokemon, there wasn’t too much difficulty to be found.  But, in this spirit, when I get tagged in the occasional Facebook thread asking how to balance Pokemon and college, I do staunchly maintain that it would be near impossible to do so while attempting to be the full-fledged socialite that many see as typical of the “college experience.”  Personally, not appealing to me anyway.  Nevertheless, even with my opinion on that, there is a balance to be struck, and I don’t think I hit it this year.  It’s on the list of reasons I won’t try this again.

If you want to chase Top 16, be prepared to travel far and often.  I earned a pitiful number of my points from North American Regionals, and if I’d coordinated it a little better, I bet I could’ve made up those points attending Special Events or Regionals in smaller areas (where it’s objectively less challenging to attain high-value finishes) while attending 0 NA Regionals.  Next year, I see no indication that this will change.  If you want to be the best in North America, be prepared to prove it in Asia, Europe, and wherever else you find yourself.

Being Known and Knowing Responsibly

Once upon a time, a younger Christopher did not get along very well with a certain P.E. teacher of his.  If you ask me, she felt I didn’t value her class enough—in fairness, I probably placed fairly low value on it—and I reciprocated the resulting iciness.  Nevertheless, in a fun day in 9th grade Health class, we were deciding topics for class presentations.  The “system”: we would draw names, at which point each person would choose the topic of their choice.  If someone later wanted the same topic, we would draw the two names again and the “winner” got to keep it.

I actually had the random first choice of topic, picked whatever I did, and moved on without being “challenged” almost through the entire process.  But, at the end, the last chooser decided to “challenge” someone else, which he won.  The loser of that challenge then insisted that she be allowed to challenge me for my topic, which I then lost.  I, then, insisted I should be allowed the right of a challenge for something else since I’d been booted without ever getting to challenge someone else.  This was refused, which 14 year old me was fairly miffed by: she’d just gotten to take my topic after being bumped off her own, why wasn’t I afforded the same right?  I almost never argued with teachers, and definitely not in public, but for better or worse I made an exception here.

At some point or another—and I promise I’m going somewhere with this—I made a point that a pair of my classmates chose to applaud to.  Now, this pair of classmates had a history of trying to antagonize our P.E. teacher, so their support wasn’t exactly the bastion of excellence my case needed, but I was welcomed with wide-ranging sympathy in our next-hour Spanish.  But, before that, I was sternly chewed out after class—her evidence that I was out of line being my classmates’ applause.  She said my actions were entirely those of respectful disagreement, with the exceptions of the lines that garnered applause, which allegedly should have been obvious to me: my classmates, with every history of annoying her, approved, so clearly I was wrong.

I was incredulous: you’re going to stand here and judge my actions on the reactions they garnered from others, rather than their own merits?

In the end, 14 year old me, the youngest in the room by over a year, just really didn’t want to present on the anatomy of the endocrine system—and the pair that got me in hot water apologized for inadvertently setting me up.  But the argument has stuck with me for a long time, and after a year of truly being “visible” in the Pokemon community, I’m not quite as offended as I once was at her suggestion that the reactions my actions garnered were on my head.  And, in true sincerity, yielding influence terrifies me.  I’m fundamentally never going to be convinced that anyone is completely responsible for the actions of another person, but I think we are responsible for the effects of the ideas we represent.

I don’t know that everyone is going to follow this leap, but to me, this wasn’t something I understood well until I experienced being “known” in the community, which is something that started before this year, but was something I felt ever-present this year.  And, really, being known has taken two tracks: there’s the autograph-hunting, almost celebrity element, that comes from being a known player, and then there’s the “robot” element of knowing, uh, close to everything about the game.

To say the least, the celebrity aspect is something I’m not especially comfortable with at this point, nor something I think I’ll ever be entirely comfortable with.  If you’ve ever approached me at an event and come away feeling that I was cold, I genuinely promise I don’t hate you!  Especially in the first few months after the SixPrizes takeover and my finishes on official stream last season, being approached for autographs, selfies, or whatever else was something entirely foreign to me.

Really, tournaments are already not entirely my most comfortable experience ever: I’m fairly sure I spend more time alone at a table with headphones in than the average player, owing to a healthy dose of introversion and a healthier dose of people to talk to at tournaments.  I’ve tried to get better at this, and I no longer come away from the average autograph request feeling like I’ve alienated someone forever—that’s a win, right?  But, it’s a battle.  Nevertheless, I cannot understate how much some of you have brightened my days, and I’m continually humbled by the attention—even if I’d rather duck.

In the other vein, there’s being known as the all-knowing “robot” of the community.  Those were someone else’s words, though—I cringed repeating them, let alone writing them myself.  The robot moniker and I have an interesting relationship that is beyond the scope of this writing, but I do wish to make known that I know most of you mean it in good fun and I accept it as such.  In the meantime, though, I’ve seemingly acquired a reputation for tournament structure analysis, player data analysis, and essentially most other things stats-related in the community.  That’s before the whole day-of-tournament Math saga comes to light.

With that, I’ve learned, comes a responsibility to choose my words carefully.  Influence terrifies me, and I would naturally rather advocate for my stance on an issue from the back than lead it from the front.  As life happens, though, I’ve been awarded a platform and my goal is to make the best of it for as long as people listen.  I do want to say that I’ll never be able to properly articulate how much some of what I’ve been told this year has meant to me.  Some of you are too kind.

With a reputation for knowing things comes a responsibility to not get things wrong later.  With a reputation for being on the right side of the rules comes a paranoid scramble to stay that way.  There is nothing to be had in this game, as far as I’m concerned, if it is marred by impropriety.  I have tried tirelessly to stay on the right side of integrity throughout my time here, and I hope to have made it in the end.  There are actions I’ll question for years, people I know hold me in contempt for decisions I’ve made, “friends” I have turned in, and things I’d have back.  I can only promise that I’ve always tried to do what I thought was right.  At the end of the day, I have that to live with.

More and more, I hear vague comments from people in high places attesting to the stories they’ve heard of me.  Nothing quite so well manages to make my heart soar and my stomach drop simultaneously.  I only hope the stories are good.

The words of so many of you mean so a lot to me.  I’m merely grateful to have the ability to answer questions.  Any positive impact I can leave behind is bonus.  I hope some of what I’ve written makes a bit of sense to anyone else out there, but if not, it boils down to that.

To bring this all back: Once upon a time, I would have argued that I had absolutely zero responsibility for the actions my classmates took earlier.  I still didn’t move their hands, but in allowing myself to argue publicly with my instructor there in a way that risked inciting their actions, I laid the groundwork for them—and can’t completely wash my hands of it.  For any Seniors or particularly thoughtful Juniors that happen to have stumbled onto my post today: the adults that tell you life isn’t always so black and white are onto something—I promise I didn’t believe them at the time either.

The “Top Player” Effect

This is a particular favorite of mine because that heading alone just evoked so many emotions in the eyes of so many people.  I want to be careful with what I say here, so I’m going to do my best to stick to personal anecdotes and ensure everyone else is left out of it.  To the degree that I fail to do so, I apologize in advance to anyone who feels I’ve infringed on them.

Within discourse in any social group, there will be those that receive better or worse treatment based on their standing in that social circle.  Biologically, I think that’s too much of an ingrained fact that social psychologists have gone about demonstrating for anyone to believe our game is above that.  What’s important, in my mind, is the degrees to which it is allowed to affect the game.  This sort of “immunity to criticism” can arise in a few situations in particular: the results/fallouts of accusations of cheating/improper conduct, “skewed” judge calls, favorable in-game treatment, and intimidation—and the perception, independent of reality, of any of the above.  In all cases, the first step to solution is awareness.

First: I sort of alluded to it in the last section, but the easiest way to make me uncomfortable is to try to refer to social standing in the game while at the table.  No, my CP total does not mean you are not going to beat me.  Sure, maybe I have a better chance, but I’m probably not going to win against your straight Lurantis deck playing Greninja no matter what.  My advice to aspiring players is to not let the “star” factor matter to you.  Certain folks have an ingrained self-confidence that doesn’t allow them to process the idea that someone else could be genuinely better at the game than them (this is something that many grow out of moving into Masters, in my experience, which is why mudslinging is so much more the norm in Seniors) while others have an inferiority complex that instills a belief that measuring up is impossible.  The ideal mindset is somewhere in the middle there.  I’m not claiming to have found it.

With regard to judge interactions, there’s an entire sea of issues to talk about.  The reality of a global game in a global tournament structure is that those players traveling on a global level are naturally going to gain a level of familiarity with the judge staff that the first-time player isn’t going to have.  To me, I have no doubt that 95% of judge calls are made with no regard whatsoever for this effect, and another 4.5% I have fairly good confidence in.  There’s a 0.5% that sometimes makes me cringe, but that is mostly beside the point: what matters is that perceptions of bias are avoided, because perception is reality in situations like this.

To self-indict here, to me one of the bigger gaffes I made this season came in Hartford.  I don’t even remember what the situation was, but I needed a fairly simple yes/no ruling to reassure my opponent of the legality of my play.  Floor coverage was a bit sparse, so just raising my hand wasn’t going to cut it—but instead of “Judge!”, “Steve!” slipped out of my mouth to call for Steve Lewis, noted Houstonian and frequent appearance on the judging circuit—and closest person to the scene.  I resisted the temptation to slap my hand over my mouth for the idiotic gesture: now, to my opponent, it looks like I’ve just called in an ally or something.

I probably beat myself up for that one for the next month or so of tournaments, and don’t think I’ve managed to do anything similar since.  I’m far more paranoid of appearances than most; this isn’t lost on me, but nevertheless I don’t want to imagine how many similar things happen on an average weekend.  I firmly believe there’s no substantial issue of top-player privilege among actual judge rulings, so to muddy the waters with the appearance of it is something I loathe having done.

Once more, something I alluded in the last section is the oral credentials the community seems to automatically lend to those with high CP totals.  I think most of the players in the spot, myself included, enjoy their stature as a mixed result of earned credibility and CP total, but there’s definitely a mix of combinations among the “upper echelon.”

There’s a Top 16 calibre player who has had some double attachment issues on stream over the past few years.  I’m distinctly not naming him here because I don’t think he deserves the Google hit for something that is entirely circumstantial as far as any of us can know, but for the purposes here it’s enough to know that there have been multiple threads accusing him of “cheating” via these game play errors over the last while.

Usually, these threads are initiated by people who have little social standing in the community, or social standing that has been eroded by these threads themselves—right, wrong, or otherwise.  There’s usually a mix of accusers, white-knighters, and those in-between commenting on the topic.  To me, I really don’t care whether this player “cheats” or not for the purpose of this topic: it’s enough to juxtapose the social media reaction to accusations against him to the reactions we see when an unknown entity is thrown under the spotlight.

In the cases where the high-profile is accused by the nobody, I think the community needs to be conscious of the fact that it has a tendency to bias toward the high-profile player.  That doesn’t mean to prejudice anyone’s reaction, and it certainly isn’t a commentary on a particular case, but the key to beating implicit bias is self-awareness.  Just because today’s accused is innocent doesn’t meant tomorrow’s is on the grounds that he has 1300 CP.  Losing sight of that would be a disservice to everyone involved in the game.

To look from a different angle, I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to, I could bury a few players on my recollection of things that have happened alone.  That isn’t something I ever would do, for a few reasons.  At first thought, it’s a strenuous use of social capital that at best ends in inconclusive question marks.  But foremost in consideration, I believe the game is healthier when we root out cheaters via the established means—judges and catching actions—rather than oral vigilantism.

If I see a player do something dicey, my position is that it is preferable to report that action to a judge rather than run a social media campaign on the topic.  The social media campaign at best mars the accused, but it also puts him on guard for future events—at worst, it backfires against the accuser, something those with lesser social standing in the community implicitly will weigh more heavily than I (and I already weigh it not-insubstantially).  By tipping a judge off, the situation can be monitored, and things can be caught definitively.

I am confident that I have made tips that have panned out, and I have faith in the judging system to eventually catch a bad actor.  However, with a heavy heart, I allow that there are those whose experiences do not allow them faith in the judging system, and therefore I certainly do not mean to criticize those that take the vocal route in exposing wrongdoing.  Perhaps I am entirely wrong in my conviction toward behind-the-scenes maneuvering—I am inclined to behind-the-scenes rather than the spotlight in almost every situation anyway; maybe that’s bled too far here.  It’s a distinct possibility I’ve weighed, but I continue to believe things are improving, and stand in my conviction—but, that does not mean I condemn those who feel differently.

Unfortunately, I do believe we generally suffer from a degree of conflation between credibility and Championship Points within the community, but I do strongly believe it’s an effect limited to areas that don’t affect competitive integrity.  The court of public opinion is weighed by stature, and I’m not sure there’s much we can do about that.  Nevertheless, I believe the venue that actually matters in the game on a practical, concrete, and integral level—judging—is free of any degree of this taint.  It’s fair to wonder what effects can be had on public opinion.  It’s unfair to speculate on judges’ motives, in my mind, when speaking in this area.

Juniors, Seniors, School, and The Pitfalls of Parental Pressures

To depart from the Masters sphere for a bit, this is a brief aside on the state of Juniors/Seniors…and their parents.  Sadly, it’s been a mediocre year on the whole for the younger divisions’ attendances, though Madison did manage to be the largest Senior Regional ever just a few weeks ago.  We saw the continuation of a trend that emerged last year in the rise of the “super-kid,” with a few players commanding impressive shares of the total CP availability for the year.  With the ability to attend everything, we’ve seen a number of players and parents take advantage—and props to them for playing the system the way TPCi has designed it.

I’ve heard a lot of frustration expressed that it’s “possible” for players to accumulate these massive CP buffers, and while this is an issue that permeates in Masters as well, something that I think players and parents are going to need to realize is that Championship Point rankings are not strictly intend to offer the “best” 16 players the Day 2 invite.  (Or, rather, that “best” is strictly a linear function of performance in a given season—and you cannot prove that status without participating sufficiently.)  It fundamentally isn’t the fault of players for playing the system the way it is designed, and it’s highly unfortunate to see and hear some of the reactions the year has garnered in this respect.

Fundamentally, I believe that deriving basic personal value from relative performance to other players should be discouraged at all costs.  You cannot control the actions of another in the game.  Being 2nd instead of 1st, 9th instead of 10th, or 101st to 102nd, is not a hair that a healthy person should split.  I heard a lot of cringe-worthy statements over the course of the year to effects similar to this, and I’m really not sure what to say beyond expressing my sincerest regret that anyone thinks that way.

Wishing ill upon another, or needing to mar another, to improve one’s own self-stature is the mark that something is wrong, and sadly I think this happens all too often in the game—but especially amongst teenagers predisposed to these issues of self-valuation.  There are not as many Senior cheaters as their are Senior cheating accusations—though, there are more Senior cheaters than their are Senior disqualifications, which is an issue in which I know I share a passion with many prominent judges.  Within your own circles, I challenge you to not tolerate vague, detail-less “he cheated!” as a dismissal for losing.  It’s the best way to move to a healthier dynamic.

Another issue in the younger divisions that sort of ties in with the above, but also has its own elements entirely: the phenomena of the player-parent “team.”  So often when a parent tells me about the results of his or her child on the weekend, it’s a “We got nth!” or “We hit some rough luck” or “We…”—you get the picture.  This isn’t something as much that I aim to criticize as much as something I want to express my bewilderment with.  At my last check, it isn’t the parent sitting down at the table, but the child.

Of all people, I am the last one on earth positioned to denounce the value a committed parent brings to one’s chances in the game—there is nothing equivalent—and I don’t believe there is implicit danger in the “we” wording.  I do, though, believe it’s emblematic of a potential pitfall that I’m not sure some have stayed away from all that well.  There have been parents, in my years, that I am 100% sure were merely living vicariously through children with middling-at-best interest in the game.  More often than not, this over-investment on a parental part runs in parallel with activities like the “we” wording—it’s evidence of the mentality behind.

I can think of some notable exceptions to the general trend I’m insinuating here, and once more, I don’t think the wording itself is implicitly symptomatic of a problem.  But, if you are someone whose inclination is to lead with that “we” phrase, I’d challenge you to reflect on your own reasons for doing so.  There are plenty of healthy ones to consider, but there’s also no small sum of more problematic ones to root out.

Then again, I am but a 19-year old who has played a card game in a lot of places and would like to see that card game’s community thrive in as many ways as possible.  There, probably, are reasonable people that could disagree.

The Misplacement of a Mistake and Top 16 Scares

Within human nature, making mistakes is something fundamentally torturous.  Nobody likes doing it, though the amount of regret, self-torment, and overall pain will vary a lot person-to-person.  Within the game of Pokemon, there are a lot of decisions to make, and while some of them are probability plays that just don’t work out sometimes, there are a few that can be straight-up wrong.  On the other hand, there are sometimes entirely unforced errors that can bubble to the top for a player.

Making a wrong decision is one thing—at least in most cases, there is probably a self-justification for what was done.  Maybe it didn’t work out, but at least you probably had a conviction that led you down the road you chose.  There’s some value in being wrong, but at least knowing why you chose wrongly.  On the other hand, there’s the unforced error: torpedo’ing your own tournament run through things that have no conceivable logical explanation, where just entirely wrong, or otherwise emblematic of a debacle in the making.

I only “threw” a small handful of games this year in ways that were unequivocally indictments of my own actions.  Sure, there were likely some plays on the wrong side of ideal percentages here and there, but only a small handful where my own actions directly and obviously led to my own loss.  Unfortunately, two of those were on back-to-back days, in Roanoke and at the pursuant Memorial Day League Cup in Ohio.

At Roanoke, I started 7-1, lost to my friend Xander in the match for the #1 overall Day 1 seed, and faced a matchup I considered favorable in Round 10.  I’d gotten Game 3 to a point that was systematically impossible to lose; there just wasn’t a combination of scenarios where my opponent could draw his 6 prizes before I’d grab mine.  In some sort of delusional cloud, though, I decided to lead off my would-be penultimate turn with a Ghetsis to insure against any 0.01% plays that could result in problems.  A “Zoroark turn” of Trades, Ultra Balls, and whatnot later, I played a (greedy) Guzma to move my active rather than attaching+retreating.  I took that knockout, then midway through my opponent’s turn, it occurred to him that he had too few cards in hand: I’d played two Supporters.

I think the responding judge and head judge thought I was irritated with them for what happened next, but as I hope I conveyed at the time and want to absolutely transmit now, I was solely disappointed with myself for allowing the game-losing Double Prize Loss.  I’d punted an 8-2 start, with a date with another decently favorable matchup up next, in the crux of the Top 16 chase.  It was easily one of the low points of my season, and the rest of the day consisted of bizarre matchups that sunk everything about my chances.  My lead over 16th shrunk to a pitiful margin of points, and due to a Cup upload timing matter, I was actually positioned 17th on official rankings for a few days.  Even if it wasn’t real, the gut punch felt real.

The next day, after starting 3-0 at a League Cup with 6 Rounds, I made another inexplicably terrible series of plays: faced with an active Lycanroc-GX, I had a Necrozma-GX with three attached Psychic.  I played a Max Elixir, missed it, and believed my chances were over: I Sycamore’d, looked at the cards, and conceded.  My opponent queried: “You didn’t hit an Energy?”

In a furor that I’m still not quite able to diagnose, I’d missed the obvious: I just needed to attach to win!  Fundamentally embarrassing, entirely gut-wrenching, and yet another self-inflicted wound—in the course of 24 hours, I’d thrown away untold numbers of points.  I lost out at the Cup, missing Top 8, and never attained a second Cup finish for the quarter: that error was one I just never came back from.

Fortunately, I spent the next few weeks playing like it was May 2017, and I get to write this recap of what almost was rather than an autopsy of what went wrong in my Top 16 chase.  But I can’t quite describe the feeling of sinking my own case so dramatically, let alone doing so twice in such a minimal time.  It almost compares to the feeling of essentially winning 3 games in the finals of Mexico, only to have 2 of them be pulled back by miraculous comebacks that I could’ve likely prevented with some better play, but I do have to say that was the most bittersweet moment of the season by a mile and a half.

When things like this happen, all you can do in the end is move on.  I probably dwelled on it longer than I should have, but there’s absolutely a certain healthy element to reflection.  It isn’t something I can go back and fix—all I could do was perform at my best for the rest of the season, and while I’m not even sure I achieved that, I did achieve enough to finish out my goal of finishing in NA16—and that’s what matters to me today.

Coded Conversations

This one will be short and sweet because I lack a personal anecdote and merely wish to underscore a point while I’m here: there is a long history in the game of players flouting the rules, and in particular, I’ve come to observe that many have a fundamental lack of respect for rules they don’t like, and choose to pretend as if they do not exist.  Believe it or not, most of the rules in the game exist for very good reasons—for example, the prohibition on flipping a coin to decide a match is because the presence of such actions brings the game under gambling regulations: something that cannot be tolerated for a litany of reasons.

Fundamentally, if you get caught violating the rules on conversations that are allowed—or disallowed—at the table, you deserve what comes to you.  The game would be better if we could convince everyone of that.

The Future Flame

As I’ve alluded, stated, or hinted for months, this is it for me on the Day 2 chase trail.  I don’t believe TPCi will make substantial changes next year, and I don’t enjoy playing the game enough at this point to facilitate the time dedication it will take to be within the game’s highest level next year.  It’s simply not something I can justify when there are other things that can be a better use of my time.

Nevertheless, for a few reasons, I cannot go away entirely—nor do I want to go away entirely.  Too many people in the game still mean too much to me to take that step, and in a sense, I still want to do what I can to better the parts of the game I can try to affect.  The chapter is written; the book is open.  You’ll still see me at a number of Regional events, and perhaps at an IC, though I’ll probably call it quits on the Cup circuit to the extent that I can do so.  Though my schedule doesn’t facilitate it at the moment, it’s my intent to offer coaching in the run-up to Worlds, so if that’s of interest, keep an eye out.

At the end of the day, I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded in the game.  I hope you found something I wrote here today interesting—that’s about all I can ask for.

It’s been a fun ride.  Thank you for being a part of it.

All the best to you.

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