Cheating in Pokemon TCG IRL

So here’s the first thing I want to say:

  • If someone cheats on stream in a semi finals match of a regional championship, it’s absolutely impossible for me to believe that that was the first time they cheated.

Here’s the second thing I want to say:

  • The fact that someone didn’t cut or shuffle a deck that was stacked should have no impact on absolving the cheater.  The fact that the victimized player tapped shouldn’t even enter into the conversation.

The third thing:

  • I don’t know if I can trust the results of Pokemon TCG IRL tournaments.  Just because someone who has 35,000 Youtube subscribers says that cheating isn’t a problem in the IRL trading card game doesn’t absolutely make it true (also realize that that person has been financially compensated by the Pokemon TCG IRL administration in the past, so their opinions are inherently unobjective AND that person didn’t disclose that they’ve been financially compensated by the Pokemon TCG IRL administration in the past as well in that video).

So if you missed it, another player was caught cheating on stream at this weekend’s Latin American Regional Championship in Brazil.  This follows on the heels of cheating in the Masters finals at the world championship in August and a long list of other incidents over the past few years that include some extremely popular and accomplished players.  All you have to do is google “Pokemon TCG Cheating” and you’ll find plenty of videos documenting cheating in the Pokemon TCG IRL.

Some of these are non manipulative – cases of palming cards or off the board incidents – but most of them involve the intentional manipulation of cards while shuffling.

I watched quite a bit of the matches this weekend and really enjoyed them, but I wasn’t really looking for cheating.  Actually, I have to admit I was listening a lot more than watching as I have spent several hours over the past two days tearing out my kitchen backsplash and prepping it to put up new tiles.  We haven’t picked out the new tiles yet… but I digress.  It was great to be able to listen to the live IRL matches while working, it really made the task enjoyable.

I love following the “meta” and seeing what decks do well, what archetypes are “the best” in the Standard format, especially that this weekend was the first time we got to see Lost Thunder cards in action.  For some time now, however, I’ve suspected that a material (accounting terminology for significant) percentage of players are routinely cheating through card manipulation, and this cheating affects the determination of “the best” decks in format.

After this weekend, I’m just not sure that I can rely on TCG IRL tournaments as a good determiner of what the best archetypes in the format are.  I know that sounds crazy, but I just don’t know how much cheating is going on out there IRL.

One thing that can’t be questioned: cheating IRL distorts the results of a tournament and creates aberrations.  The more cheating there is, the more contaminated the results are, and the further removed from what the true reality should have been.  Decisions that I make based on “the meta” can become skewed from these contaminated results.

Basically, if there’s a lot of cheating going on IRL, I simply can’t use the results of IRL tournaments as a determining factor as to what the best decks in the format truly are.

And I don’t know that I’m to that point yet, but I’m getting pretty close.  There are two Standard format regional tournaments in both of the next two weeks.  If cheaters are caught on stream in quarter or semi or even finals matches again at these events, I’m probably going to have to stop referring to IRL tournaments in my analyses of the game.

There’s no question that the IRL game is at a crisis – no one can argue that the integrity of the IRL results is on the verge of losing all credibility.  If you don’t think it’s a really big deal, go buy a 2018 World Championship deck and, in the booklet included with the deck, take a look at the page where they list the top 8 of the Masters division finals.

And I get that it’s a card game – and where there are card games, there will always be people who cheat at card games.

But if the Pokemon TCG administrators can’t get this problem under control, as much as I love those live on stream matches, I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to watch them anymore because I’m afraid they’ll negatively skew the way I view the game and cause me to come to conclusions that aren’t necessarily the best for me or my readers.