LAYTON -- She started playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game 11 years ago in a Dairy Queen. Now, she organizes tournaments all over Utah.
Andrea Sargent, of Roy, said the city championships on Saturday at the HeeBeeGeeBeez store in Layton is just an example of how big the game has become.
"They're playing in card shops, in libraries. There's even a league in Sandy that plays at Arby's."
Sargent said she got interested in the game after her 9-year-old daughter told her about a card game her friends were playing at school.
So Sargent bought her daughter some cards, and they found a place for her to play.
But Sargent didn't want to leave her daughter with the teenage boys who were playing, so she stuck around. When the league leader told Sargent she needed to learn to play, she eventually did.
Less than two years later, she entered her first tournament, and now she's found out how addictive the game can be.
"From the first tournament, I was hooked," Sargent said. "This is something that has turned into something totally different than it started out to be."
Now she pretty much runs the game in the state, and her daughter is a judge at the national tournament.
Saturday's tournament is open to all players, regardless of previous involvement in any similar event.
Players will compete for the city championships medal and will earn premier ratings points that go toward a potential invitation to the 2011 Pokemon World Championship to be held in San Diego in August.
"We had over 1,200 players at our national championships in Indianapolis last year," Sargent said.
Kids who play in leagues throughout the season also can earn money for college.
Some have earned close to $5,000 in scholarships throughout the past few years, Sargent said, and the winner of a regional tournament in April will win a $15,000 scholarship as well as a free trip to the national tournament.
Registration will be open until the tournament begins at 11 a.m., with competitors divided into three divisions: junior (born in 2000 or later), senior (born 1996-1999) and masters (born in 1995 or earlier).
Participants can be from anywhere, and Sargent said some are even traveling down from Idaho to play.
Players will need to bring their own deck from within the past two years, so the game will have only the most recent decks.
Each champion gets a medal and 18 packs of cards, and Sargent said she has really fun items to pass out as door prizes.
"I have play mats and beach balls and pencils and stickers for anyone that comes, so we have a real good time," she said.
With the popularity of the event, HeeBeeGeeBeez, at 1986 N. Hill Field Road, No. 2, is happy to host the tournament.
"It's a safe environment for kids to get together and practice a game that increases their problem-solving skills," said Rachael Williams, manager of HeeBeeGeeBeez.
Williams said HeeBeeGeeBeez has hosted Pokemon tournaments in the past and it has always been a good experience for the store.
The last tournament like this took place on a Sunday, so Williams said she hopes a Saturday tournament will bring even more participants. Even if it is a few days after Thanksgiving.
"Hopefully, they're not all out of town for the weekend."