Devon Roth, 9, plays his father in a Pokemon battle....

Devon Roth, 9, plays his father in a Pokemon battle. Roth is the top registered player in his age group in New York and is ranked 16th in North America. He is traveling to Indianapolis next week to participate in a national competition. (June 28, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Devon Roth smiled as his father looked at the horrible hand he had been dealt as the two battled it out in their dining room.

The 9-year boy from New Hyde Park got his first set of Pokémon cards from his karate teacher a little more than a year ago and has quickly surpassed his father, who taught him to play the game.

“We used to play wrong,” said Christopher Roth, Devon’s father. He smiled as he recounted his son’s learning curve. The two read the instructions several times before they finally started to understand some of the complexities.

Once they worked out the kinks, Devon became very good at the game. He can remember the skills of most of the 1,200 cards, helping him predict his opponents’ moves. He can also crunch large numbers in his head allowing him to quickly compute points lost and earned during matches.

And next week, he will put his skills to the test at the Pokémon U.S. National Championship Tournament in Indianapolis. From there he is off to the Pokémon World Championship Tournament, an invitation-only event in San Diego from Aug. 12-14.

“It will be the best Pokémon tournament that I have ever gone to,” he said of the world championship.

And that’s saying a lot because he’s been in nearly 10 such matches in the last year and a half. In the 11-and-under group, Devon is the top ranked New York player out of seven players registered with Pokémon and 16th out of about 2,500 in North America.

At the Pokémon City Championships, held in December and January, Devon brought home three first-place medals, two second-place medals and two third-place medals. Then in March, he competed in the state championships, where he placed fifth in New York. In April he was off to the regional championships in Philadelphia, where he brought home the gold. His victory at regionals earned him a $1,500 scholarship, which he gave to his mother, Erica, for tuition at Nassau Community College.

Similar success at nationals could earn him a $5,000 scholarship and a free trip to San Diego for the world championship.

It’s not about the money for Devon, though his mother hopes to save up any winnings for his college tuition. Devon genuinely enjoys the game and has made friends from all over the country by competing and keeps in touch with them online.

“He enjoys it, that’s the main thing,” his father said. “Even when he loses, he’s . . . had the time of his life.”

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