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Pokemon TCG Community Conflicted Over Controversial DQ at Pittsburgh Regional

What started off as friendly banter at the Pokemon TCG Pittsburgh Regional soon turned to one prominent player getting disqualified from the Pokémon regional this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Regional was an overall success, with a lot of top players showing off their skills with meta decks and overall smooth operation (at least compared to Worlds 2023). But one player getting disqualified has torn the community on how judges handle sensitive situations at big tournaments.

A top competitive player and coach, Danny Altavilla, was ultimately disqualified from Pittsburgh despite an overall positive day, ending his regional run at 9-3-2. This left a lot of players confused as to what led to Altavilla’s DQ and it seems like there’s more than meets the eye.

According to multiple sources that witnessed the event unfold, Altavilla was disqualified for calling his opponent a “little bitch.” One regional attendee explained to Esports Illustrated that the insult resulted in judges discussing what the punishment should be for well over 30 minutes.

Altavilla’s opponent, Hunter Butler, allegedly told judges that all he wanted was an apology and asked for Altavilla not to be disqualified. Instead, Altavilla refused to apologize and was then disqualified from the regional.

Did the Judges Do the Right Thing at the Pittsburgh Regional?

While this initially sounded like a cut-and-dry situation, it was revealed by another source that Altavilla and Butler were actually friends at the time and could be heard bantering throughout the entire match. It appeared friendly at first but the source told EI that they noticed Butler appearing legitimately salty once he started to lose to Altavilla. They both started insulting each other, resulting in Altavilla eventually calling him a “little b****.”

“I believe it was an unfair disqualification that happened,” the source said based on the relationship between the two players and the back-and-forth nature of the interaction.

Another witness felt differently, however. The regional attendee also confirmed that Altavilla used the insult, but this source told Esports Illustrated the disqualification was justified.

After winning the first game, Altavilla allegedly slowed down his play significantly. This would result in the second game not finishing, giving Altavilla the win against Butler. The source stated that Butler was growing frustrated with the slow play and started making comments about everything Altavilla did, causing him to snap back with: “Dude, you’re being a little b**** about this.”

Even though the two players drove to the event together, it seemed like what transpired during that match shook up their relationship.

“Danny is known for slow play and for being a d*** to his opponents,” the source said, adding that they had experienced similar behavior when playing against him in the past. “Danny was by no means completely in the wrong [since] Hunter was badgering him the entire game. But as Danny was already on a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct, his fate was essentially sealed.”

Another player who is close to both Altavilla and Butler, Nicholas Moffitt, told EI that they felt no slow play was happening, however, describing the last turn of the first game as “relatively quick.” Even so, Butler was continuously asking Altavilla if he was going to keep playing slow, saying, “You either have it or you don’t.” Altavilla responded that he was just making sure he truly had the win.

Butler continued to accuse Altavilla of slow playing, even calling over a judge when Altavilla started pile shuffling his cards. This method of shuffling has been a source of controversy for the competitive TCG community, with some arguing that it’s not efficient enough. The judge, however, stated that it’s not slow play if the shuffling takes less than two minutes, according to Moffitt after he witnessed the interaction.

Game three was relatively the same, Moffitt told EI. Altavilla had a poor opening hand and “quickly passed over to Butler” instead of taking an “extended time to search his deck” to figure out prize cards. For this reason, Moffitt explained that it didn’t seem like Altavilla was slow playing at all.

Moffitt then told EI that he was then asked by a judge if he overheard Altavilla use the term in question. He told the judge that they heard bantering but didn’t personally hear that specific insult.

“I spoke to Butler after the disqualification of Altavilla and he claimed that he told the judges he did not want Altavilla to be disqualified, but that he just wanted him to apologize for calling him that name,” Moffitt concluded. “The two had been friends for years. I even went out to dinner with the both of them in Japan when we were there for Worlds this August. Butler was shocked that Altavilla wouldn't simply apologize but rather denied calling him a little bitch.”

While Altavilla allegedly denied calling his friend that, he was ultimately disqualified when another witness confirmed that they had indeed overheard him use that phrase against Butler.

For now, Altavilla nor Butler have given any statements on what happened at the Pittsburgh Regional. The community has been left wondering if judges should have stepped in over two friends bickering or if the judges were right after all since Altavilla was allegedly slow-playing on purpose. At the moment it’s an unfortunate situation in an otherwise largely successful regional. 

The Pokemon TCG community has a love-hate relationship with the regional judges. A lot of times the judges are criticized for how they deal with cheating and other sensitive situations, including this most recent DQ. Still other times the judges are applauded for their quick thinking and competitive integrity.