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A passion for Pokemon

Prowess at card game takes Ruettiger to World Championships in Hawaii

Joey Ruettiger, 10, of Minooka, plays a game of Pokemon in his living room Thursday after school.
Joey Ruettiger, 10, of Minooka, plays a game of Pokemon in his living room Thursday after school.

When Joey Ruettiger was younger, he was in what his mom called the “collection stage” of his life.

“I still have so many Rescue Heroes,” Minooka resident Rose Ruettiger said about one of her son’s collections. He had also taken a liking to Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Cards at one point.

Over the past several years, however, the desire for Rescue Heroes and Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards has been taken over by Joey’s latest passion and collection — the Pokemon Trading Card Game.

“We went to Target one day and I saw a pack (of Pokemon cards) and thought they were really cool,” Joey, 10, said about the beginning of his new collection.

In March 2009, he brought the Pokemon cards he had at the time to the Joliet Public Library, where a tournament was to be held. He arrived only to find out the cards he had were not qualified for competition.

Jimmy Ballard of Top Cut Comics in Plainfield was hosting the contest that day, Rose said, and had to tell Joey he couldn’t play with the cards he brought. But Ballard had a beginner’s deck and gave it to Joey to use instead.

“He came home and he was all excited because he had won a game,” Rose remembered. “Then he said, ‘I’m going to build myself a deck.’”

From then on, Joey began building his decks and practicing Pokemon with his mom so he could compete. He has 13 boxes containing about 250 cards each at home and many binders full of cards, too.

Playing Pokemon has been described as a cross between poker and chess.

“You need to be able to bluff,” Rose said about Pokemon’s connection to poker. Joey’s math skills also help him in the game.

Since that first contest in 2009, Joey has been working his way up in the Pokemon world. He is a part of Pokemon leagues on Wednesday and Friday nights, and competes in city competitions, regional competitions, state competitions and has been in the world competition, too.

The Pokemon season runs from September through the following August. Joey is currently competing in the autumn battle rounds and will head to Fort Wayne, Ind., Oct. 13, for the regional championships.

“Joey is a very outgoing kid,” Rose said. “He has made friends all over.”

He has gotten exposure to many different nationalities and has made friends in other countries, including Italy and Japan.

In mid-August, Joey finished ninth at the 2012 Pokémon World Championships in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

“I think I did really well,” Joey said. “I was a little nervous.”

Joey is off to a good start for the 2012-2013 season, Rose said.

As of Thursday morning, Joey was ranked No. 1 globally on the Pokemon website’s ranking and ratings web page. Rose said he is actually in third place, however, because the two final competitors in the 2012 World Championship were awarded 500 points towards the 2013 season just for being in the championship game.

Joey and his mom will be traveling to games in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana this season.

“I bought a new car in April,” Rose said. “I already have close to 10,000 miles.”

She jokingly labeled the miles “Poke-miles” because if it weren’t for her son’s interest in the game, she would not have to drive so much in her “Poke-car.”

The Poke-car’s license plate reads “Luxray 1” after Joey’s favorite character, Luxray.

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