How to play the Pokémon trading card game for stupid dummy dads and grandmas…

The idiot guide for dads. After extensively searching the net for a quick, easy and dad optimized tutorial on how to play Pokémon (pocket monster) cards with my son I have to come to the conclusion there is none yet. I need a manual  that walks dads like me carefully through every step in the game. In absence of this easy to learn and follow guide I have to do my own for the time being. (Dear Reader in case you know a good resource please do not hesitate to recommend it in the comment section of this post.)


Despite the fact that 5 year old kids begin to play Pokémon it is a highly complex strategy trading card game. The way to learn it is to start at a very basic level and to slowly work yourself up to the more complex level of understanding the game. In the following the basic questions and answers will guide you to play your first game with your child at a basic level. To advance you will need to learn more and more details about the rules of the game and the cards.

Basic Level (all what you really need to know for your first game)

#1: How many players in this trading card game ?
The game has two player – in my case one is dad (no cards and no idea yet) and on the opponent side is my son with a large collection of Pokémon cards but a very personal idea of how to play this game. It seems the rules always favour him….

#2: How many cards does one player need?
Each player needs 60 cards. You handpick and decide what cards to take before you start the game. This is then your card deck.

3#: What type of cards should I choose for my 60 cards deck ?
There are three type of cards:
1. The Pokémon (Pocket Monster)
2. The Energy Card (without it the Pokémon cannot attack)
3. The Trainer Card
A dad if he wants to impress his child should choose 20 Pokémon cards, 25 Trainer cards and 15 Energy cards. Therefore in the following there are a few exercises for the beginner dads:


First exercise for dads – card sorting #1: I took the card collection of my son and sorted the cards into the three categories: 1) Pokémon 2)Energy 3)Trainer.

(Detail explanations of these card types can be found in this blog post: “How to play the Pokémon trading card game for dummies“.)

The Pokémons look very similar to insects, small animals, dragons or small robots and have fantasy names associated to their appearances. Satoshi Tajiri the inventor of the game was a passionate insect collector in his childhood.

The Pokéman fight each other, always one by one. To prepare them for the battle they have a trainer (trainer card). To fight they need energy (energy card).

For  your first game just choose Pokémons with the same color. This means you need to go through your second exercise:

175Second exercise for dads – card sorting #2: Now select only the Pokémon cards (not the trainer cards and not the energy cards) from the first sorting excercise and seperate them into piles with similar colors. Each color resembles a different type of energy that the Pokémon belongs to – additionally the energy type is indicated by a symbole in the right upper corner of the card. Depending on the content of the card collection of your child you will end up with different number of piles.  The card collection of my son includes ten different types of Pokémon.

#5: What types of Pokémon with similar energies should I finally select ?
The recommendation is to have 20 Pokémon cards with the same energy tpye within your 60 cards deck. In the following video this boy explains how he selects Pokémons with the grass energy (green color cards) for his deck.

Were you able to follow ? Now very slowly and a short step by step explanations for the ultimate beginner.
Within the group of Pokémons of similar energy there are again three sub-types.
1) Basic cards
2) Stage 1 cards
3) Stage 2 cards

 177Third exercise for dads – card sorting #3: Select one group of Pokémon cards from the card sorting exercise #2. They should have the same color and belong to the group of Pokémon with the same type of energy. Now sort the cards into 3 categories: 1)Basic 2)Stage 1 3) Stage 2.

For your first game I would recommend you to only select the basic type pokémon. Stage 1 or Stage 2 cards I would get into after you have played your first game or first few games.

#6: What type of energy card should I select ?

In the next step you need to choose your 15 energy cards by doing another exercise.

001Fourth exercise for dads – card sorting #4: Now take the pile of the energy cards and separate them into piles related to their energy symbol and color. How many types of energies did you find ?

In my son’s card collection there are just 5 different types of energy cards.

As mentioned before my son’s collection contains 10 different type of Pokémon cards. Green (grass energy) Pokémon have the most cards. Now should I choose the green Pokémon with the grass energy ? The answer is a  straight no. In this card collection there are no green energy cards (grass energy). This means no energy available for the green Pokémons to attack.  A much better option for dad is to go for the blue (water energy) Pokémon cards and take the blue energy cards.

One more thing you will need to understand about energy cards. Do you see the colorful energy cards with the star (bottom right in the picture above)  ? These are universal energy cards called “colorless energy card”. As you might have guessed these work with any type of Pokémon cards independent if they are green, blue, yellow, and so on. If you also take some of  those this would do no harm.

Guess what you are not yet done with the card sorting exercises . What else is left to sort ?

003Fifth exercise for dads – the final card sorting #5: Now do the same with the trainer card pile. And how many types of trainers do you have identified ?
I have come up with three main categories – item, supporter and stadium.

#7: What trainer cards should I choose for my deck ?
To select your 25 trainer cards I would not go into much thinking yet. For your first game just choose one stadium trainer card, two supporter trainer cards and twenty-two item trainer cards.

Summary :
Card Deck for your first ever Pokémon game with your child:
20 Pokémon Basic Type cards with the same type of Energy
15 Energy Cards that have the same color as your chosen Pokémons and some colorless energy cards (Cards with multiple colors on it and a star)
25 Trainer Cards of which are 22 Item Trainer Cards, 2 Supporter Trainer Cards and 1 Stadium Card


For the Advanced Level 1 dads (not needed for your first game of  Pokémon):

#8: What is the difference between a Pokémon Basic, a Pokémon Stage 1 and Pokémon Stage 2 ? Well they belong together first of all, they are a family. A Stage 2 Pokémon evolves out of a stage 1 Pokémon and a stage 1 Pokémon evolves out of a Basic Pokémon. Each time they do it they get stronger and stronger. So guess what who is the strongest in this family ? The Stage 2 Pokémon.

#9: What is the difference between item trainer card, a supporter trainer card and a stadium trainer card ?

More about trainer cards here:

Ideally see also Reference: Wiki-How: Build an effective Pokémon Deck


Setting up the Game

#10: How to setup the game ?

In this video from the expert Jodi Serge I have learned how to setup the card game:

Important advice to dads: Also shuffle the deck of your opponent!!

Summary Step by Step:
1) Shuffle your card deck
0052) Take the first 6 cards and put them face down on your table (see picture). These are your prize cards.

3) Select 7 more cards from the top your card deck. Do not show the cards to your opponent and hold them in your hand

4) Place the rest of your card deck in a pile on your table as well.

Now I am all set to be beaten…


#11: How to start the game ?

This video by Jodi Serge below explains how to start the game:

Summary Step by Step:
1) Choose 1 Basic Pokémon from your seven cards and put it face down on the table. This is your active Pokémon that will go into the first battle.
2) If you have more Basic type Pokémons put those face down on your so called “bench” on the table.
Key Rule to remember: The Bench can have maximum five Basic type Pokémons at any time.
In my example in the picture I have one active Pokémon and two on my bench.007 What do I still hold in my hands ? I have three energy cards of which one has an universal (colorless) energy and one trainer card.
3) Flip a coin who is the first to start the game or decide the oldest (youngest) one of the two players will begin the game.


#12: How to play the first round ?

Before you start to play the game become aware of your true role. You are the trainer of the Pokémons that go into battle. The story of Pokémon is based on Ash Ketchum, a ten year old boy, who has the desire to become the best expert trainer for Pokémons in his life. The first Pokémon he befriends with is called Pikachu. And if you have 22 Minutes I would recommend you to watch the first Pokémon episode – I will choose you.

The video below explains what happens when you take your first turn in the game

Step by Step Summary of the video:
1) Both players:
Flip over your basic Pokémon cards that you have chosen as your active the ones on your bench so your opponent can now see these cards.
The player that goes first:
2) Draw one card from your pile
3) If it is a basic type Pokémon card and you have less than 5 basic type Pokémon cards on your bench, then add this new Pokémon card to your bench
3) If you have an energy card in the cards that you hold in your hand see if you can add it to your active Pokémon. You can add only one.
4) If you have a trainer card(s) in your hand see what it says and see if helps you to add more energy cards, or do some other useful tactical moves to enhance your battle power.

008In my example (see picture)  in step 2 I drew a basic type Pokémen card  which I placed on my bench. I put an energy card next and below my active Pokémon card. Now this Pokémon card is ready to go into battle. And I used my trainer cards which allowed me to go through my whole pile of my card deck and take out two more energy cards which I now hold in my hand. My trainer card will now go into the discarded cards pile. I cannot reuse it again in this game.
5) Next is the turn of your opponent to do the same steps 2-4 above.

Your First battle:

Summary Step by Step:
Basculin PokemonNow it is time that you understand more details about your Pokémon card. Below the picture of the Pokémon you find the name and descriptions of the attacks this Pokémon can do. In this case Basculin has one energy card attached which will allow you to use the Flail attack.

At first with the Flail attack willdo 10 damage points to your opponent.
As soon as Basculin received some damage points during the fight the damage points of the Flail attack will increase by number of damage points Basculin has collected. (see picture below)

To use the Final Gambit attack of Basculin you would need at least one blue (water) energy card attached which is the case already in this example. Then you would need additionally two more energy cards. These can be any type of energy card. The symbol next to the attacks will tell you what kind of energy card you need and how many. If you see the star (colorless) energy symbol this mean you can attach any type of energy card.

011It will take at least two more rounds to activate the Final Gambit attack of Basculin. You can only add one energy card per round if you have one.

Now Basculin recieved two damage points coins (20 Points). His maximum HP Hit Points was 80 Hit Points when you started the game. You see the HP Points on the right upper corner of the Pokémon card. Now Basculin has 60 HP left after the attack.

As he has two damage points the next time you use the Flail attack, Basculin will now do 10×2=20 damage points to your opponent.

Once Basculin has collected 80 Damage points he will be discarded together with the energy cards attached from the play field. These cards cannot be used anymore in the current game.

Your opponent will collect one of his prize cards as your Pokémon Basculin has been knocked out.

#13: What can happen during a battle – Weakness and Resistance ?

In this video the Pokémon Expert Mom Jodi Serge explains what else you need to be aware of during your battle:

#14: What can happen during a battle -Pokémon special conditions ?

This is another impact on your Pokémon that can be inflicted by your opponent’s card.

#15: What happens when your Pokémon was finally beaten?
When your Pokemon has no more HP (Hit Points) left and therefore is knocked out, all cards attached to it (including the energy cards) go into the discard pile.

Additionally your opponent can now draw one prize card from his prize cards on the table.

#16: When is the game over and who is the winner?
Once a player has collected all his 6 prize cards the game is over and he has won.


And below some examples what more advanced players know about the game and why it is good to start at a very basic level first. The more you know the more complex strategies for your game which heavinly depends on the card deck you choose you can develop.

For the more advanced players:
Advise: Choose a few trainer supporter cards that let you go through your deck to find other cards or possible discard your opponents cards. Reference: How to build a winning Pokemon deck

Once you advance with your knowledge and move towards mastery. This is what the highly advanced players do when they build their decks.
Deck Building Guide

And here is the list of the top 100 Hit Points Pockemon


Further reading:
I am just reading: “What Pokémon can teach us about learning and literacy.”
And as I am a People, Organizational and Talent Manager in my professional life and interested in using gaming where applicable I see a lot of common principles between the Pokémon Trading Card game and Talent Management.
I am not alone: Pokémon allows player to experience talent management


Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia
Official Guide Pokémon Trading Card Game Rules
Pokémon Cards provide rare insights into facial recognition processes
Pokemon Dad – The PokeCommunity Forums
A Dad’s Pokemon Quest – Real Men, Real Dads
Top 100 Hit Points Pokémon

Pokemon: Ultimate Handbook
Pokemon Trading Card Game Player’s Guide (Pokémon)
Trading Card Games For Dummies


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13 Responses to “How to play the Pokémon trading card game for stupid dummy dads and grandmas…”

  1. Brad Says:

    This is so great. Thanks for putting this together. I can entirely relate and I’m tired of playing Pokemon where we just go back and forth with damage while he plays his legendaries and I have nothing but basics so the game lasts 5 minutes but we must play it over and over.
    Can’t wait to build decks with my sons and hopefully play our first strategic, meaningful, and intellectual game of pokemon!

  2. Ahmed Longs Says:

    I’m not certain where you are getting your info, however good topic. I must spend some time learning much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.|

  3. is el paso a good place to live Says:

    Appreciating the hard work you put into your website and in depth information you present.
    It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that
    isn’t the same outdated rehashed material. Fantastic read!
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  4. Kay McLane Says:

    Thank you. My grandkids play this and I have been at a COMPLETE loss to figure out how to even discuss the game!

  5. Bruce Says:

    Thanks for finally talking about >How to play the Pokémon trading card game for stupid dummy dads | Continuous Learning & Development <Liked it!

  6. Donna Says:

    Your title needs to include “and grandmas”! My almost 6 year old grandson was so exasperated with me over the weekend, because I “just don’t get it”. He didn’t come right out and call me stupid, but I KNOW he was thinking it. This is a great tutorial, and I can actually understand the basics. Can’t wait to try it out next week-end.
    Grandma Donna

    • ppalme Says:

      Thank you Donna. You put a smile into my face with your comment. When I was a child I used to play scrabble and the Romee card game with my grandma. It was pure joy. I remember every minute of it.

  7. scoop11 Says:

    Good article! My son started playing the game recently, but I had an advantage in the mechanics of the game because you can play the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online (at that has a tutorial on how to play the game and takes you step by step.

  8. sammychan Says:

    This is actually hilarious.

  9. LostMom Says:

    Thank you so much for this! We couldn’t figure out how to start the game. We had no idea you picked your own deck and things weren’t working. We would start the game and have no energy cards to play with. Thanks. That idea solved many problems!

  10. Zootgirl Says:

    I am a mom who wanted to teach my 5 year old how to play once he showed interest in the cards. I was so overwhelmed and never thought I would be able to figure out the game. I’m so glad I came across your post! It really helped me understand the basics of the game!!! From there I definitely suggest playing the Pokémon tcg app online. After a few rounds with their tutorial games and trainer games I felt very confident to play! My next suggestion is to pick up a trainer kit. I got mine on Amazon for around $10. It came with two decks of 30 cards and booklets that walk each player through a “mini game”. My 5 year old was able to understand and play the game almost immediately!!!! It’s actually a very fun, addictive game! Thank you for your post, it was an integral part of removing my fear in learning to play Pokémon!!!!

  11. Ginger Says:

    Clearly this article is not just for dummy dads as I am a mom searching the internet for ‘easy to follow pokemon game instructions’ LOL

    1) Why are there so many steps?!?!?!
    2) THANK YOU!!!!
    3) The only thing that could make this better is if there were printable instructions at the end of this post 🙂

  12. simplyscrambled Says:

    I am looking for help, as I need a basic version ( not the 60 card face-down cards (etc) to pick from at random to start the game. Rules can be bent for changed for those just playing to have fun,,,and slowly learn too..
    How about as a link?

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