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Templeton student on his way to card games world championships

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Carson St. Denis, 10, of Tigard is currently ranked No. 3 in the world for his skills at Pokemon cards and will be flown to Indiana next year to compete in a national tournament.Carson St. Denis is one of the best in the world at what he does, but the shy 10-year-old isn’t the type to brag.

Carson, a fifth-grader at Templeton Elementary School, is currently ranked No. 3 in the world at Pokemon trading cards, a strategy card game that pits imaginary monsters against one another in battle.

Carson claimed a first-place win Dec. 3 in Salem, winning him a trophy and the chance to compete in July at the national championships in Indianapolis.

Each win secures Carson victory points. Even before his appearance at nationals, he has nearly enough points to compete in the world championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2013.

“I’d have to totally stop playing to not make it to the world (championships),” Carson said.

For the detail-oriented elementary student, the game offers him a chance to compete with adults much older than him.

He plays weekly in a league in Milwaukie.

It’s a thinking man’s game, Carson said.

“It’s a strategy game,” he added. “I like playing because your strategy may not work.”

Carson first started collecting the cards for fun before learning how to play the game online about a year ago. He soon began competing in local competitions and earning points.

Although he lost his first competition, he has come in first or second place in every competition that followed.

“They say I’m pretty good,” he said matter-of-factly, when asked what adult players have to say about his technique.

Carson recently traveled to San Jose, Calif., to compete in a regional tournament. His room is filled with trophies from various events.

He’s not sure how many cards he owns at this point — what started as a small collection has grown to thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands of cards in little more than two years, Carson admitted.

Players are given packs of cards as prizes in tournaments. However, Carson purchases his best cards online.

“You can get them on eBay,” he said, holding a $100 card in his hands.

It may seem like a silly card game to some, but there are serious rewards for players who do well.

Cash prizes and scholarships are often given to the best players, Carson’s mother Mary Belle St. Denis said.

Her son heard about one man who performed well enough that his scholarships covered his college tuition.

“Pokemon can pay for college,” Mary Belle said. “You have to have a brain to play this game. You have to be smart.”

Carson, who is in his first year playing the game competitively, said he wants to play for a while. “I want to go on with this,” he said.

But Carson said he has kept his extra-curricular activities a secret from friends at school, who might not see the game as “cool.”

“It’s a secret,” he said.

But as one of the best players in the world right now, Mary Belle St. Denis said her son shouldn’t keep his skill to himself.

“Once you get to be this good, there’s no shame in it,” she said.

When asked how he will perform on a national and global stage, Carson said he isn’t expecting to win.

“I’ll do horrible, probably,” he said.

“He says that every time, and then he goes on to win,” his mother added. “That pessimistic nature has served him well.”

Carson’s next big competition is in March at the state championships in Salem.

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