Gotta catch ‘em all: 12-year-old heads to Pokémon World Championship

Omar Cortes, who lives in Midlothian, is ranked third in the country for the card game
Omar Cortes plays two to three times a week at Pokémon leagues in the Richmond area.
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 5:17 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - On Wednesday nights, you can find people from all over Central Virginia at Paper Tiger for Pokémon night testing their cards and trying new decks.

Among the competitors is Omar Cortes, a 12-year-old from Midlothian who is ranked third in the U.S. and seventh in the world in the junior division.

He’s preparing for Pokémon’s biggest tournament this weekend.

Omar has been playing for most of his life and competed in his first tournament when he was just 7 years old.

”I was about like five or six, really, and we just like went to a local league. I built my first deck and just started playing from there,” said Omar Cortes.

Omar plays two to three times a week at leagues in the Richmond area. He plays with his friends and has a mentor to help him run through decks and give him tournament advice.

”Just kind of looking at the strategy element of it and saying like you could be doing that, but you can also be doing this, and this is better,” said John Orgel, Omar’s mentor.

Orgel is no stranger to these tournaments. He’s competed in a handful of regional tournaments, won a state title in Maryland in 2014 and competed in worlds in 2015.

”So that’s how I’m helping Omar out. Just identifying areas where he can find a skill edge that he needs to do really well in these tournaments and become a world champion,” said Orgel.

The timeline leading up to this tournament was a long one for Omar. He competed in 11 tournaments this year and was able to get his invite to worlds in just his 4th tournament.

”At the beginning of the season, I set a goal, because I really wanted to get my invite and compete in worlds. So it felt amazing to accomplish that goal,” said Cortes.

In addition to that goal, Omar also placed first in regionals at their Milwaukee tournament.

”Once I got my worlds invite, I really wanted to win a regional, so I also accomplished that,” said Cortes.

The world championship tournament will be held in Yokohama, Japan, this weekend and could win Omar thousands of dollars and other prizes. Omar plans to do some more training before the big event and already has an eye on next year.

”So I move up to seniors next year, so I really hope to carry on success from juniors into seniors and then eventually masters,” said Cortes.

If you would like to follow Omar’s progress, head over to Poké