To qualify for the Pokémon World Championship, a player needs to win a certain amount of points from good performances at local, regional or international events. Players compete for thousands of dollars in prizes and the title of Pokémon World Champion.
Hill said the Pokémon Trading Card Game, or Pokémon TCG, is a combination of poker and chess. The Pokémon World Championships also has categories for the Pokémon Video Game, the popular mobile game Pokémon Go and a Pokémon fighting game called Pokkén.
“The poker element is where you don’t know what your opponent could play, there’s a lot of Pokemon cards, and the chess part is that once they play those cards, you have to figure out how to get your cards to defeat the other ones,” Hill said.
There are currently 809 Pokémon, but Hill’s favorite is one of the original 151 Pokémon — Mew.
“For me, Pokémon has always been just about having fun, seeing my friends, hanging out and having a good time," Hill said. "The competition is always a side part."
Carl Barone, one of Hill’s friends and a fellow competitive Pokémon TCG player, said one important quality of a successful Pokémon TCG player is intellect.
“You have to be able to predict, you have to be adaptable and pick up a game plan on the fly," Barone said. "You have to be a quick thinker, you have to be confident you have to be decisive — it’s a lot of intellectual traits that I think you need to be good, and I think that’s why Blaine was able to do what he did."
'Tilting' is a term in certain competitive games like Pokémon TCG where an unlucky loss results in frustration and an emotional breakdown. Barone said he has never seen Hill 'tilt.'
“You love those underdog stories, and he was the one main one, he’s the American that got the farthest — there’s one American in the top four and it’s Blaine Hill, that’s insane,” Barone said.
According to Chip Richey, another competitive Pokémon TCG player and friend of Hill, dedication is one of the most important qualities in creating a Pokémon master.
“He practiced more for Worlds than I think I ever saw him practice for any other tournament, so it was really cool to see that pay off for him in such a big way,” Richey said.
Barone said that unlike some other top Pokémon players, Hill has never cheated and that Pokémon TCG is lucky to have him as a good role model for kids that love the game.
“UNC is lucky to have him down there, he’s very smart, very personable, very confident — we’re all super proud of him and he’s just a good kid to have around,” Barone said.