by Jason Rothman
On a recent Saturday at Town and Country Village in Palo Alto, kids were slamming one another, and no one was getting hurt. No, it wasn't a child's version of the World Wrestling Federation. The scene was a POG tournament, a new game craze that mixes collectibility with a contest of skill.
Kids countrywide are picking up the game and, well, slamming it back down.
"It is more dynamic than marbles," said Kris Bosmans, of BB Slammin, a distributor of official World POG Federation milk caps. "We had games and collectibles in the past, but now this is a game you can collect."
POG is pretty simple. People stack cardboard milk caps 11 high and then slam a plastic disc, called a Kini, into the stack. Any caps that turn over are put aside. The first player to turn over six milk caps wins.
The mystique of the game is the design of the milk caps. They are decorated with everything from skulls to POG man, the federation's mascot.
"It's fun to collect and fun to play," said 7-year-old Los Altos resident Nicholas Estrom as he warmed up for the tournament, sponsored by Town and Country Pharmacy.
More than 100 kids turned out for the first WPF-sanctioned tournament, and most of them had the same strategy: Slam the Kini as hard as possible and try to hit the sides of the POGs--more of them turn over that way.
Kids in Hawaii looking for something to do invented the game 70 years ago, collecting milk caps from the local dairies. The game faded from popularity (along with bottled milk) until 1990, when Blossom Galbiso, an elementary school teacher in Hawaii, told her classes about playing the game when she was young. Almost instantly the game had a resurgence and soon after children all over Hawaii were slamming discs into milk caps.
About the same time, the Haleakala Dairy began putting different caps on their Passion-Orange-Guava juice bottles--hence the name POG. Kids began collecting the caps and the game grew.
Then, last year Alan Rypinski, the man who founded Armor All, bought the name POG from the dairy. He then founded the World POG Federation and began marketing the milk caps. Now, according to Bosmans, the game is expected to be a $500 million industry in 1995.
Periodically, the WPF puts out a different series of POGs. Each series has 70 different POGs and there are 100,000 made of each series. So, like baseball cards, they are collectible.
There are also other companies who produce the milk caps, but Rypinski is suing them over exclusive rights to the name POG. The kids playing the game, however, probably don't know about the battle and they probably don't care. They just like playing with the different milk caps.
That's the main reason 10-year-old Gabi Tramiel, of Los Altos Hills, began playing.
"It's fun because you can bet the POGs," he said. "It puts a thrill into the game."
Tramiel won the tournament. He and the other two runners-up get to compete in the regional POG tournament, also at the Town and Country Center, and the winners of that tournament go to the state finals, planned at Marine World later this year.
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