How to Play Pokemon… A Crash Course for Desperate Parents


I have two little boys and the world of Pokémon has entered my life full force. Of course, it was my 7-year-old that first discovered the magic and wonder of all that is Pokémon through Netflix. My 4-year-old quickly followed and convinced all of his little pre-school friends that PJ Masks were out, and Pikachu was in.

Before I knew it, they were begging me for packs of cards they can’t read, stuffed talking Pikachus and were having heated discussions about something called a “Charmander” and if this character could, in fact, beat Pikachu. After my 4-year-old’s Pokémon themed birthday, Family caught on and the next thing I knew both kids had a full binder of cards.

While I’m heavily involved in many aspects of my children’s lives, I just kinda let them run with this. I listened to them go on and on about different abilities of each Pokémon character and muttered a lot of “Oh wows” “uh-huhs” and “That’s neats” in between my sips of Merlot in the evenings.

Imagine my surprise that in one of my absent-minded “uh-huhs” I had, in fact, agreed to teach the kids how to play the game. I was reminded of this one morning during breakfast.

“Wait, this is a game? These aren’t just collector’s cards?” I said in disbelief. Forgive me, I’m an 80’s kid who collected baseball cards, and pretended that were Garbage Pail kids because I wasn’t allowed to have Garbage Pail kids. In my day, we just collected the cards… in an old shoebox…

My son 7-year-old  blinked at me innocently. My 4-year-old pressed his pudgy little hands together and said “Pweeeeeese! Mom!!!”

“Sure! I’ll look into it!” I said,  and we all moved on. Luckily it was right before the holidays and the hustle and bustle of life moved us along and Pokémon was replaced by the latest fad in our household. I kept googling how to play the game, but my brain shut down and eyes glazed over almost instantly with each long-winded article, and over enthusiastic Youtube video.

Well, as many of you know, we’ve got a little more time on our hands now. The boys dug out their Pokémon binders today and started voice search on Youtube on how to play. They didn’t get far.

So, I finally decided to get with the program and learn the game. After wading through countless articles and youtube videos, I finally found one that explained things in a way that I didn’t want to stab myself in the eyeball. I watched it three times and took 4 pages of notes.

I’ve compiled these notes for you and have the information presented in a, (I hope) organized and easy to understand way.  Listen, I’m sure all of the articles I tried reading and videos that I tried watching are just fine for some. My brain just doesn’t work when too much information is thrown at it at once.

If I’ve gotten anything wrong, please let me know. I’ve triple checked everything, but hey, we’re all human.

Post Contains Affiliate Links

How to Play Pokémon

***Warning – Do not even think about starting a game until you have a good amount of energy cards. You cannot play without them*** Get them HERE.

  1. Flip a coin to determine who goes first.                                                                Whoever wins the coin toss can determine who the first player will be. The first player may not attack during their first turn.
  1. Setting up the game:
    • Game consists of the following elements:
    • 60 Pokémon cards per player.
    • Your hand
    • Active Pokémon
    • Benched Pokémon (5 slots)
    • Drawing Deck
    • Discard Pile
    • 6 Prize Cards
    • Hand starts with 7 cards. It must contain at least one basic Pokémon. If your hand does not contain one basic Pokémon, you need to show your hand, add it back to your deck, reshuffle and deal yourself 7 more cards. The other player draws a card every time you shuffle and re-deal yourself cards. There is no limit on how many cards you can have in your hand after you’ve been dealt the initial 7 cards.
    • Choose your active Pokémon. Only one Pokémon can be active at a time.
    • Draw 6 cards from the deck (don’t look at them) Set on your left hand side as your prize cards.

10414777_f1024(Photo Credit:

3. Game Play:

Begin each turn by drawing a card. During your turn you can do one or all of the following:

  • Play/Bench Pokémon
  • Attach an energy to a Pokémon. (Only one energy card can be played per turn and the color on the energy card has to match the Pokémon. Colorless Pokémon can have any energy attached.
  • Use a Trainer card. There are 4 kinds of trainer cards:
    1. Item – You can play as many item cards as you want per turn.
    2. Stadium – only one stadium card can be played at a time per turn. If there already is a Stadium card at play, placing a new one will discard the current one.
    3. Tool – Only one tool card can be played per turn.
    4. Supporters – Only one supporter card can be played per turn.
  • Evolve a Pokémon. You cannot evolve a Pokémon unless they have been out/played for one full turn. You can only evolve EACH Pokémon once per turn. However, you can evolve as many Pokémon as you have out as long as they have been in play (active or benched) for one full turn.
  • Attack. Once you attack, your turn ends. You cannot attack unless your Pokémon has the required amount of energy attached.
  1. Winning the game:  You can win the game 1 of 3 ways:
    • Collect all of your prize cards.
      1. You collect a prize card each time you defeat your opponent’s Pokémon. To defeat or injure a Pokémon, your cumulative attack points must exceed their health. Make sure to take note of your opponent’s weakness which can be found at the bottom of the card.
    • Knock out all of your opponent’s Pokémon.
    • Your opponent has run out of draw cards.

Useful tutorial:


If you have any questions, please let me know! If your kids are obsessed with Pokemon like mine are, take a look at some ideas from my son’s party!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s