According to Joe, I have Zero Integrity and Don't Deserve Respect as a Competitor

My name is Charles Larenas-Leach, and I attended three SPEs during the 2019-2020 season. I traveled to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. I had flights booked to Ecuador, El Salvador, and Bolivia before the season was canceled. I earned 160 CP from getting 2nd place in Guatemala. I have competitive integrity.

The top four competitors at the 2020 Guatemala SPE; that's me, third from the left!

Special Events are Unfair CP-wise, but not overall

Let me explain where Joe is coming from, because I see what he is saying. If you win a Regionals, you earn 200 CP. If you win an SPE, you win 200 CP. Winning a Regionals is significantly harder than winning a Special Event. I don’t believe that I have the skill in order to make Top Eight at a Regionals. In terms of CP, Special Events are severely over-weighted.

However, Regionals come with cash prizes. This means that it is possible to earn back money spent traveling to Regionals while it is difficult to do the same with SPEs (outside of sometimes with stipends). For SPEs, the only way to make money is if it puts you over the edge in order to earn a stipend for an IC, or a Day Two invite to Worlds.

Me in the first round of the 2018 Colombia SPE

As a result, SPEs are good ROI for points, but bad ROI for money. This means that if you are a professional Pokemon player, it is better to go to Regionals. But if you are a dependent or want to spend money on Pokemon, it is better to go to SPEs. This is why Joe tweeted what he did.

Why There Are Special Events

Special Events need to be weighted that heavily because of the purpose they serve. SPEs give the opportunity for players to have major tournaments in markets where TPCi can’t justify providing the prize support for a Regionals. For someone who lives somewhere with Special Events, that event is usually their best path to earning an invitation to worlds or launching a Day Two run.

If we remove Special Events, we cripple those communities. Those events are what help those communities grow. So what are some possible solutions?

Region Locking

Some would say that there should be some sort of limit on who can attend these events. For example, should people from the mainland not be allowed to play in Puerto Rico’s special event? This isn’t really feasible from a one-way perspective. If only people on the island can play in the event, that would give islanders an unfair advantage if they chose to compete for a Day Two invite. If the limit were to work both ways (islanders can’t play on the mainland and mainlanders can’t play on the island), that would severely limit the islanders’ ability to get an invite.

Me and Andres Lerque at the 2018 Ecuador SPE
Overall, Pokemon doesn’t want to region-lock. Pokemon wants to encourage travel. Pokemon wants people to be able to play Pokemon in new places.

Solving Itself Through Incentives

One thing that I pointed out in 2018 was that this problem could solve itself. Early on, some SPEs had low attendance. However, because they have a reputation as a place to earn points more easily, more people attend them. This makes the tournaments more difficult, and therefore it makes the situation a little less unfair.

For example, this year both the Costa Rican and Puerto Ricans SPEs increased by more than a third. Costa Rica increased from 30 Masters in 2019 to 52 Masters in 2020, and Puerto Rico increased from 43 Masters in 2017 to 76 Masters in 2020. They may have been the same size as a large League Cup before, but now they are events with a legitimate attendance.

One could argue that eventually this problem could fix itself as more people choose to travel to these events.

Locals (maybe) want well-known players at their event

This is not always a given, but it is a cool feeling for a well-known player to travel to play at your event. I have seen local seniors ask a day two player for their autograph while in Latin America. For those who don’t travel, this can be some players’ only opportunity to meet these “celebrities”.

This isn’t always a given. For some people, they do feel like their opportunities for CP are being snatched away by those with more opportunity.

I like Special Events

The 2020 Puerto Rico SPE at the beginning of registration

That same Puerto Rico SPE at the end of registration
For me, one of the most fun part of the Pokemon Organized Play system is finding weaknesses like this and taking advantage of them. On the weekend of February 8th and 9th of 2020, I drove two hours on Saturday and an hour and a half on Sunday to cups when I could have driven forty five minutes and fifteen minutes respectively to attend closer cups. This is because I think it is fun to go out of my way for better opportunities to earn points. I get that same thrill from attending an SPE on the same day as a Regionals. In 2018 I attended an SPE in Ecuador on the same day as a Regionals in California and an SPE in Cancun on the same day as a Regionals on the East Coast. This past March, I went to the Guatemala SPE on the same day as Toronto. That makes it more fun for me.

For me personally, I have a special affinity for Latin American SPEs because they give me an opportunity to practice my Spanish and travel. They also aren’t especially expensive to travel to compared to other continents.

The Day Two system is flawed; not the SPEs

Joe has a point. SPEs aren’t fair for players who are going for a Day Two invite. But this isn’t the fault of the players who choose to participate in these tournaments. This is the fault of TPCi for creating a broken system. Players who refuse to attend SPEs on principle are putting themselves at a disadvantage.

Getting burgers next door to the Costa Rica SPE. Can you tell how tired I am?
Don’t hate the player, hate the game. And by “hate the game”, I mean that we should politely ask TPCi to fix it.
The Costa Rica SPE venue

Actual, realistic solutions

We have already established that TPCi is not going to region lock these tournaments. Messing with Best Finish Limits will also not help, as Chistopher Schemanske made the case for in this excellent piece:

The best solution is to make SPEs larger and more challenging events, so that the difference between SPEs and Regionals isn't unfair. For example, the past three SPEs in Paris have all had more than two hundred players. The last five SPEs in Chile have had more than one hundred players. These are legitimate events, and no one thinks that their point payouts are unfair as they are seen as being on par with a Regionals. We should strive to push all of our SPEs to this level.

TPCi has tools in their toolbox to make this happen which they aren’t using yet. These tools are better scheduling and organizing.

Regionals are large because players know in advance where and when they will be. The schedule for the entire season is known beforehand. The same needs to be better established for SPEs. In Latin America, there are almost never SPEs at the beginning of the season. They start getting approved four or five months after the season has started (I’m not discussing Chile or Brazil - those are larger markets and not accessible to Day-Twoers from the US). If the SPEs were planned out from the beginning of the year, more people would be able to attend.

SPEs need to be better spread out throughout the year. Right now, they have a tendency to clump in the back half of the year because of the lack of planning. If they were better spread out, more people would be able to attend. In 2020, the Guatemala and El Salvador events were scheduled on back to back weekends. Since there is large overlap between the players who would attend those events, that makes it less likely that players would be able to attend both. On May 12th 2019, Special Events were held in Cancun, Panama, and Colombia. These events most certainly cannibalized attendance from each other.

In addition, if TPCi focuses on growing the communities where there are SPEs, that also helps with attendance.


Joe is correct that there is a problem, but his tweet ignores the root of the problem.

I’ve laid out what I think the solutions are. Do you agree?



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