A friend of mine once told me that at some point in our lives, we were all “n00bs”. Of course, there are no “n00bs” in the Pokémon TCG (my friend was actually talking about an online game). Still, all of us could probably recall the first time we bought our first Pokémon theme deck. I remember mine very well, actually. I think I was eleven or twelve years old, and I was pretty happy getting my very first pre-constructed deck (Overgrowth).
I also remember opening my very first booster pack. During that time, everyone seemed to want a Charizard, and the thought of getting one seemed to be more important that everything else. I remember slowly opening the foil wrapper, careful not to damage the cards. I also remember the feeling of disappointment when I got something else.
Those days, when the fastest internet connection speed only reached a few kilobytes and websites like Amazon and eBay didn’t exist, it was pretty difficult to find the cards you wanted. The easiest way for a grade school student back then had to buy and open booster packs to find the cards he/she wanted (or attend the official leagues and trade cards with other players).
Opening booster packs, however, was a gamble. There was no guarantee you would get the cards you wanted. Back in those days, when I was still in grade school, I only got around $6.00 every week as my allowance (nowadays, I get way much more than that, of course).
Booster packs used to cost around $3.00, and I could only get one once in a blue moon. When I got to high school, I could buy one to two booster packs every week. When I got to college, I started buying booster packs by the dozen every now and then (talk about an increase in purchasing power).
This gave me better chances of finding the cards I wanted, but it also got me spending whenever I passed by the local card store. For a period of time, I found myself buying booster packs whenever I had the money to burn. Opening booster packs became an addiction.
In fact, when you think about it, card stores that sell booster packs are like slot machines. When you buy a booster pack, you’re literally paying for a chance of getting valuable cards. If you find yourself buying booster packs by impulse, you might as well say you have a gambling problem.
For the record, I have nothing against booster packs. I personally think that booster packs are a great way to find the cards you want, though it usually takes a significant amount of money and an extraordinary amount of luck to get very rare cards like Luxray GL LV.X.
Seeing that almost everyone here in 6P talks about deck strategies and the like, I decided to take a different route and talk about something else. You may not like mathematics, but I think you may find the content of the rest of this article a bit helpful (and/or entertaining, hopefully). I hope to give people some insight on booster packs.
A booster pack from the earlier expansions of the Pokémon TCG used to have eleven cards, but after a while, the number of cards were reduced to nine. Booster packs nowadays, however, have ten cards. Each booster pack has five common cards, three uncommon cards, one rare card, and one random card.
The random card is usually a common card or a reverse foil version of a card in the set, but it could also be a Pokémon LV.X, a Pokémon Prime, a Pokémon LEGEND, or some other special rare card like Alph Lithograph. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, these never take the place of the rare card – you would always find one with another rare card inside a booster pack.
It has also been generally accepted that you couldn’t get two copies of the same card in the same booster pack (unless the other one is its reverse foil version). Basic Energy cards are considered common cards, and they have no reverse foil versions.
Knowing this, we could somewhat compute for the probability of getting a certain card by opening a booster pack from a certain set. Please be warned that I’m about to delve a bit into statistics – kindly get some tissue if mathematics makes your nose bleed.
Let’s say you want to know the probability of getting a Ninetales from HeartGold & SoulSilver. You also don’t want its reverse foil version. Since there are thirty-four (34) rare cards in HGSS (excluding Pokémon Prime and Pokémon LEGEND), the odds of you getting a Ninetales is 1/34 or 0.0294.
The odds of getting a reverse foil version is even more grim since a reverse foil version of Ninetales would take the place of the random card in an HGSS booster pack, as there are 157 cards that could appear in the place of the random card – there are 104 cards in HGSS that could have a reverse foil version, 39 common cards (including eight Energy cards), 6 Pokémon Prime, 4 Pokémon LEGEND, and two special rare cards (Gyarados and Alph Lithograph).
Therefore, the odds of getting Ninetales appearing in the random card’s place in an HGSS booster pack is 1/157 or 0.0064. To know the odds of getting either version of Ninetales in a booster pack, simply add the two probabilities – that is, 1/34 + 1/157, or 0.0360.
To know the odds of getting both versions of Ninetales in the same booster pack, simply multiply the two probabilities – that is, 0.0002.
As said earlier, there’s only one rare card in every booster pack (unless you get another one in the random card’s place). What about uncommon cards? There are three uncommon cards in a booster pack. Let’s say you want to know the probability of getting a Pokémon Collector and that you also don’t want its reverse foil version. We know that Pokémon Collector is an uncommon card, and is also from HGSS.
Since there are thirty-eight (38) different uncommon cards in HGSS, the odds of getting a Pokémon Collector in an HGSS booster pack should be 1/38 or 0.0263. There are, however, two other uncommon cards in the booster pack. Pokémon Collector could be any of one the three but cannot appear more than once.
The probability of a Pokémon Collector appearing in a booster pack, therefore, is actually (1/38 + 1/37 + 1/36), or 0.0811. Computing probabilities for common cards generally revolves around the same idea.
At this point, I think some of you are already confused, and that is why I took the liberty of computing all the probabilities for you. As you may notice, the probabilities differ for each set because they all have a different number of cards.
My computations are based on the assumption that you are only looking for one particular card at a time. Kindly note that the probability for the random card in each set may not be accurate, but it should give you a rough idea on how difficult it is to find a card like Luxray GL LV.X in a booster pack.
Common – 16.16% (1/33 + 1/32 + 1/31 + 1/30 + 1/29)
Uncommon – 9.68% (1/32 + 1/31 + 1/30)
Rare – 2.70% (1/37)
Random – 0.65% (1/155)
Common – 16.70% (1/32 + 1/31 + 1/30 + 1/29 + 1/28)
Uncommon – 10.72% (1/29 + 1/28 + 1/27)
Rare – 3.13% (1/32)
Random – 0.75% (1/134)
HEARTGOLD & SOULSILVER
Common – 13.18% (1/40 + 1/39 + 1/38 + 1/37 + 1/36)
Uncommon – 8.11% (1/38 + 1/37 + 1/36)
Rare – 2.94% (1/34)
Random – 0.69% (1/144)
Common – 19.29% (1/28 + 1/27 + 1/26 + 1/25 + 1/24)
Uncommon – 11.12% (1/28 + 1/27 + 1/26)
Rare – 3.70% (1/27)
Random – 0.81% (1/124)
Common – 3.33% (1/30 + 1/29 + 1/28 + 1/27 + 1/26)
Uncommon – 3.85% (1/26 + 1/25 + 1/24)
Rare – 3.23% (1/31)
Random – 0.75% (1/133)
CALL OF LEGENDS
Common – 3.23% (1/31 + 1/30 + 1/29 + 1/28 + 1/27)
Uncommon – 4.00% (1/25 + 1/24 + 1/23)
Rare – 2.56% (1/39)
Random – 0.78% (1/129)
Statistically speaking, booster packs from Rising Rivals and Supreme Victors give you the worst bang for your buck. That being said, it would be much more advisable for you to go and find people selling the card you want from those sets than buying and opening booster packs.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging you from buying booster packs; just don’t develop the thinking that buying more booster packs means more chances of getting what you want. This isn’t true, and this kind of thinking is called the gambler’s fallacy.
The probability of getting what you want in one booster pack isn’t affected by the outcome of another. For example, there are twenty-nine different rare cards in Undaunted. Buying twenty-nine booster packs won’t guarantee you getting a Smeargle.
Similarly, buying a box of booster packs won’t guarantee you a Pokémon LV.X. It is more advisable to buy booster packs in bulk, though. Although it won’t exactly give you better chances of finding cards you want, it is a lot more cheaper than buying a booster pack every now and then.
Speaking of boxes, there’s this popular belief going around that there are only one to two Pokémon LV.X in every box of booster packs. That’s not entirely accurate; that’s probably the average number of Pokémon LV.X found in every box of booster packs (there was a time I got ridiculously lucky and found three copies of Machamp LV.X in six straight Stormfront booster packs).
Here’s a little bit of something that might pique your interest. If you ask around, a lot of people would tell you that foil (and reverse foil) cards are a bit thicker than normal cards. Last year, during a moment of insanity, I decided to put this theory to the test.
I brought a micrometre caliper to the card store I frequented and bought around seven booster packs. For those of you who don’t know, a micrometre caliper is a small tool used to accurately measure the degree of thickness of a certain object (a micrometre is 1/1000 of a millimetre) – it is mostly used by those in engineering.
Anyway, for consistency, all booster packs came from the same set. Before I opened each one, I measured the thickness of each booster pack. There was a small discrepancy between some of the booster packs, usually around ten to twenty micrometres.
I initially attributed this to uneven foil packaging, but when I opened the booster packs, the ones that were thicker by ten to twenty micrometres had foil and/or reverse foil cards. I decided to test if there was indeed a difference between them and learned that foil and reverse foil cards were thicker than normal cards by an average of ten micrometres.
If you’re going to buy booster packs, you might want to bring a micrometre caliper on your next trip to your local card store.
In conclusion, opening booster packs to find a card you want isn’t always the a bright idea, especially when you have a small budget. Sometimes, it’s just more practical to get it from someone else.