Don't Go to TCG-Con

Summary: TCG-con frequently does not pay out its advertised prizes and staff compensation. They currently owe upwards of $50,000 to players, cosplayers, judges, and other staff members for previous conventions, and appear to be in the process of collapsing entirely. I would strongly recommend not purchasing a ticket to their future events, trying to get a refund if you already have, and warning anyone you know away from them as well. If you're owed money yourself, see the end of this page for information on next steps.


TCG-con is a relatively new and small company that runs fantasy gaming conventions for a mix of card games. They've run 10-15 conventions in total, I think starting in 2021.

I was a judge on staff for the Magic areas of TCG-cons Houston and Indianapolis in 2023, and Houston in 2024. I've also been in contact with many players and staff members from other games and conventions. There have been consistent problems at many of these events paying people what they owe.There have also been many other issues involving poor planning and logistics when it comes to the actual running of the events. I'm not covering those issues here because there's not much that can be done about it after the fact, and this writeup is already long enough anyway. The early payment issues were less severe, but they've been getting worse over time, so I'm compiling a list of everything I'm aware of so that it's available as an easy reference. If you notice any errors or omissions, or have any other information that should be added to this, please leave a comment or contact me in some other way.

At TCG-con Toledo in October of 2021, they had a Magic 5k. According to a widely-shared but later deleted Reddit post, TCG-con announced a significant decrease in prizes after round 1, such that 8th place wouldn't even make their entry fee back, and players were denied refunds after hearing this. Two other people confirmed this in the comments. However three other people in the comments, along with a different person who reached out to me later on Facebook, claim that this accusation is false, and the scaling prizes were announced in advance. If we look at TCG-Con's advertisement for the event, we see no mention of scaling prizes:

However it's pretty common for banner advertisements like this to leave some details out, and usually those details are mentioned on the website or signup page. I was unable to find an archive of either of those and I wasn't there myself, so I can't directly verify this, but based on my experience seeing the ways in which players tend to complain on social media about events whose staff I was on, and the fact that the Reddit post was later deleted, I find the latter commenters more credible here. I think it probably did say on the website that prize support scaled with attendance, so while this may have been suboptimal advertising, it doesn't appear that any money was unfairly withheld from the Magic players at this show.

However the Yugioh players did not get the playmats they were promised. They were told they'd be mailed, but never were.

At TCG-con Houston in January of 2023, the One Piece event advertised prizes that scale based on attendance. A bug on TCG-con's website caused it to display incorrect signup numbers that were higher than the actually were.They had specified a cap, and were displaying the number of spots remaining rather than the number of spots taken. e.g. if the cap was 100 and 13 people had purchased entry, the website would show that 87 people had signed up. This was fixed about a month before the event, but there was no indication of this other than the numbers changing, so some people who had previously realized the bug would look at the numbers and think they needed to be swapped. As a result, several players arrived expecting higher prize support. I only heard about this thirdhand so I'm uncertain of the details, but I believe there was nothing offered to them to make up for this, and TCG-con just gave out prizes based on the number of people who were actually there.

There was also at least one player who top 8ed the Magic Legacy event and never got their prize. They continued to message TCG-Con over the course of the next few weeks, and kept getting brushed off, with TCG-Con claiming that some unspecified third party had to handle the payment. This player never got paid.

At TCG-con Indianapolis in April of 2023, they had advertised a "championship belt" to the winner of the Magic event, like you might get in a wrestling competition. They never made the belt, and did not provide anything else to the winner in compensation.

These are the only issues I could find from their early conventions, so as far as I'm aware all of their shows prior to May of 2023 were pretty much fine, with only a few minor prizing issues.

However they did purchase $2300 of Pokemon cards from a vendor in October of 2022 (I don't know what for) and then never paid for them. The vendor kept asking for payment over the course of the next year and a half, and kept getting back "sorry, we'll pay you soon" messages. More than a year later it's still not paid.

Where things really started getting bad was at TCG-con Denver in May of 2023. They did not pay any of the judges who had been hired to run the Magic events. They did not pay their tournament manager who they had hired to organize the Magic events and hire the judges. They did not pay at least one of the cosplayers. And they also did not pay out many of the prizes that had been promised to the Magic players who had done well. Most of the big prizes got sent out promptly, but the smaller prizes for players lower on the standings did not. TCG-con took down everyone's Paypal/Venmo information, promising to pay them within a few days, but that payment didn't come until months later or not at all for some people.

Communication during that time was spotty, with TCG-con always giving excuses, saying they'd be able to pay later, and often not responding at all. In particular, the judges were told they'd need to wait until after TCG-con Tampa in September to get their payment, since TCG-con didn't have the money to pay them at the time. TCG-con also offered to pay the judges in Magic product or store credit instead of money, which one of the judges accepted, and then TCG-con never followed through on.

Here's an example of a typical excuse, which the owner sent to the tournament manager in June:

"At the moment, I dont see any reason Judges wont be paid this month. I have just a few tournament people. Like 10-15 to payout. As soon as those are done, Judges will get paid. What I can do, is next time we get a 2-3k balance. Ill devote $1000 to the judges so we can get them some funds to cover expenses atleast that they had. And then we will take care of the remainder quickly after. ...But ill get the judges some money from the next funds that come in 100%"

All of the judges were sent half of what they were owed on July 18th. Then they were not sent anything else for several months. Here's another message from October:

The Magic tournament manager was told several times throughout this period that the company was losing money, and that the owner, Dustin, was going to be leaving the company. (This did not happen, Dustin still runs the company in 2024.) It was also implied that some other people weren't paid either; here's a message that the tournament manager sent to one of TCG-con's lower-level staff members after being ignored by everyone else:

At some point early on during this debacle, an unrelated individual reached out to TCG-con about acquiring the company and paying off their debts. TCG-con was unresponsive to this offer. Later, once pressure on them started mounting, they started answering the prospective buyer's messages, but refused to answer questions about the company like its current assets, debts, employees, etc. The buyer was not interested under these terms, so the deal did not move forwards.

Tampa came and went on September 16-17 with no communication or payment. After the judges continued to bring this up every few weeks, and eventually started to make legal threats and post public comments on TCG-con's Facebook page, they finally sent the payments on October 12th, more than 4 months after they were originally supposed to be paid.

I'm not sure what fraction of the players ended up being paid. TCG-Con claimed that they paid all but 2-3 of the players before they paid the judges. But after posting this report I've had multiple players from Denver claim that they and/or their friends were never paid. So I suspect at least ~10 players from Denver were not paid.

TCG-con's next event after Denver was supposed to be in Buffalo in July, but this was cancelled. They told vendors who had already paid for their booths that they could get a refund, but for at least one vendor they did not send the refund, just kept promising week after week to send it next week. That vendor had to open a Paypal case to get their money back. I heard rumors that similar things happened to other vendors as well, but was unable to confirm any directly.

By the time Tampa came around, the previous tournament manager had quit over the "not paying him" issue, so TCG-con asked another judge from Florida to run the Magic events at TCG-con Tampa. I warned that judge in advance that they might never get paid, and they decided to risk it in case it helped get the Denver judges paid. (They had also worked several previous TCG-cons in Tampa in previous years and gotten paid just fine at those shows.)

Tampa went mostly fine. All the judges and players were paid promptly except for one player, who didn't have a Paypal or Venmo account and was told they'd be getting a check in the mail, which never arrived. The player reached out to TCG-Con about the missing check multiple times over the course of the next few months, and never got it.

There was also a vendor who paid a refundable deposit for a booth in Tampa, but then then decided not to go. They asked for their refund, but TCG-Con never refunded them.

In January of this year I had heard (apparently incorrectly) that all the Denver players and judges had finally gotten paid and that Tampa had proceeded with no issues, so I decided to give them another chance and agreed to head judge Houston in February of 2024.

I asked for all of the judges to be paid in advance, which TCG-con refused. However they assured me that ticket sales for Houston were already sufficient to cover everything, so there should be no problem paying everyone promptly on the day of the event.

So I insisted that all the judges get a signed contract this time just in case, which they did give us. And the new tournament manager that they had hired told me that in the event TCG-con didn't follow through, the tournament manager would cover the payments themselves out of pocket, which I trusted since they're a judge I've known for a long time.

Luckily, most of the judges did get paid out correctly on Sunday evening. One judge didn't have Paypal set up on Sunday, so he made arrangements to get paid a few days later. That never happened. The tournament manager was also told he'd be paid later, and never was.

The bigger issue however was player prizing. Here were the advertised prizes:

In reality the Timetwister was MP, not LP:

And most of the other prizes were missing. They only had two of the dual lands, 2-3 Sol Rings, and 2 Birds. (I was told that the reason for the missing cards was that a vendor was supposed to be bringing them, and that vendor backed out last-minute, so TCG-con went around to the other vendors to try to find as many of the cards as they could. However one of the vendors who was there told me afterwards that they were never asked about dual lands, so I suspect this story isn't entirely true.)

Their solution to this was to have the tournament manager go into their personal collection and offer their own duals instead as prizes, along with different cards of comparable value or cash in place of the Sol Rings and Birds. TCG-con told the tournament manager that they'd pay them back later for this. They never did.

This did not fully solve the issue for the players either, as the tournament manager's duals were mostly HP, and some of them were Revised rather than Unlimited, making them worth significantly less than advertised. The 2-4 place of the cEDH event ended up splitting the non-Timetwister prizes and were told they could get cash instead of the duals, but the cash value they were offered was based on the HP mixed Revised/Unlimited prices, not the LP Unlimited prices. And only one of the three players actually got paid this cash; the other two were told they'd be paid later, and never were. So one player got an MP/HP Timetwister when they should have gotten an LP one, one player got $750 when they should have gotten $2000, and the other two players who should have gotten $2000 got $0.

There were also prizes advertised for the Modern and Legacy events that weekend, around $2000 in total. None of those were sent out. Players were told to provide their payment information and expect their payment within 48 hours, and no payment was ever sent.

TCG-con Houston also had several non-Magic events. The Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and Cardfight Vanguard tournaments were all also stiffed on prizes, as was the staff member running those tournaments. (The Yugioh event on Saturday did get paid.)

A bunch of cosplayers and content creators were hired for the con. Some or all of them were also never paid. The guest MTG artists were promised reimbursement for their costs like flights and lodging; this was not delivered.

TCG-con's response to this has been to ignore most messages. When they do respond, they usually claims that they're just busy and will take care of people later. Then they... don't.

They also sometimes try to blame other people. One player was told that Best Coast Pairings, which is the tournament software they used, was responsible for prizes, which makes no sense. Another player was told that this was the fault of the Magic tournament manager, which is also not true; the tournament manager wasn't in charge of the prizes and hasn't been paid their compensation either, nor paid back for the prizes they gave out of their own pocket. And their internal employee chat was told that the reason for the low attendance was due to sabotage from another convention on the same weekend.

And sometime they claim that they have no money and cannot pay people even if they wanted to. Various higher-ups in the company have said multiple times via PM that their bank accounts are negative and they're considering bankruptcy.

After hearing about the problems with Houston, the same prospective buyer from Denver reached out again about purchasing TCG-con. This time they seemed a little more interested, quoting the buyer a price of $195,000 for the company and starting to compile a list of their debts, but they still refused to answer most of the questions the prospective buyer was asking, so that didn't go anywhere.

As a final attempt to get people paid, I wrote up this report and gave TCG-con advance notice that I was planning on posting it, offering to let them look it over for factual accuracy and telling them that I wouldn't make it public if they showed me any concrete plan to get their debts paid. 6 days later I had still not heard back, so I posted it.

Within 2 hours, the owner of TCG-Con reached out to me asking me not to make any disparaging comments about TCG-Con, claiming that they're in the process of selling it to a different organization (not the person I had spoken to myself), that they plan to use the proceeds from this sale to pay people what they're owed, and that my post could jeopardize this sale. But they couldn't give me any proof of this pending sale because they're under an NDA. They also threatened to sue me, claiming I could be held liable for damages from vendors backing out of Tampa due to seeing this report.An interesting threat, given that lawsuits usually cost money... I have yet to receive any contact from their attorney.

Internal strife

After first posting this report, several current or former TCG-Con employees reached out to me and I learned more about the company.

It was founded by two people named Dustin and David, and primarily operated on handshake agreements and social connections for a long time. Due to being friends, people didn't have clear agreements on how much they'd be paid, were willing to work for free or a reduced wage, and didn't want to risk offending their friends by asking for payment they were promised.

Over time the bad feeling kept building up. At some point in 2023, David left the company over some disagreement. (And a condition of the departure was that David could not publicly share his concerns.) Dez was then offered partial ownership as a thank-you for all the hard work he had done. As the more qualified employees and old social connections get fed up and leave, Dustin hires unqualified people to do their role. (Often people he knows from the sex work community, or his history running vaping conventions.The Midwest Vapor Expo and the National Hemp Expo in 2017-2019.)

Most of the employees that were handling logistics at Houston 2024 did not get paid most of what they're owed. Some of them have started to cut off connections with the owners of TCG-Con, others still want to salvage their relationship. Most of them wanted to remain anonymous in what they told me for this reason. Screenshots shared with permission from some of the employees who finally got fed up and refused to do any more work for free:

(This one above was about Houston. Most of them didn't have a clear agreement, but probably should have been paid $500-$1000 each.)

And here's a response from one of the owners, when their friend of 10+ years asked to be paid for the work they had done:

One of their long-time employees, James, made a video about their experiences with Dustin's various companies since 2018:


I think TCG-con legitimately wanted to run good conventions; I don't think they started out to intentionally scam people. This is speculation, but I think the money issues probably stem from bad organization and overreach; not budgeting properly, spending first and thinking about how they'd pay for it later. For example they promised to cover my plane ticket to Houston, but waited very late to buy it; it cost them hundreds of dollars more than if they had booked it early when we first agreed that I would judge the event.

Similarly I think they legitimately want to pay people, but don't have the money for it, and keep delaying things and avoiding thinking about it the same way that you might procrastinate a work task that you don't want to do. It reminds me of a compulsive gambler who keeps borrowing money from friends to lose at the casino, promising to pay it back once they get back out of the hole. They fully intend to pay it back! But their actions are not conducive to ever actually doing that. (On Friday evening in Houston, they held a pre-event party at the staff airbnb with several strippers, while a few of the more dedicated employees desperately tried to ignore this and actually prepare for the weekend. Then they hosted an afterparty at a strip club on Sunday evening.The same strip club from which they sourced several of the convention employees. I have no idea how this makes financial sense.)

It seems like their first several conventions in 2021-2022 all went fine, but recent ones started to run into problems; maybe because they got bigger, maybe some other reason, I don't know. Or it's possible that they started with a lot of extra money, have been running conventions at a loss this whole time, and only recently ran out of runway.This strategy would not be that odd in and of itself. Running a convention series is extremely expensive and not very profitable, so it's not uncommon for a new company to operate at a loss at first, hoping to become more popular and more efficient over time, and earn it back later. But the good organizers make sure they have sufficient backup funds to support this plan in advance, and don't continue trying once it's clear the plan failed. I don't know. But it seems that they've been making up for the recent financial issues in three ways:

They remain popular via a flood of advertising. I remember asking them about their advertising for one of their events back in early 2023, and they said that they had spent something like $15,000 on outreach alone, paying players to recommend them and put up posters in LGSs, paying content creators to advertising for them, etc. If you search for "TCG-con" on Twitter or Reddit, most of what you see is positive content, despite all the complaints. Comments on their Facebook posts about the events are similarly overwhelmingly positive.To their credit, I'm not aware of TCG-con deleting any negative comments about themselves. I've seen several people post complaints on TCG-con's Facebook posts, and I believe all of those comments have been left up. A lot of this is legitimate; only a small fraction of attendees are wronged in some way, so many people just have a good time and want to share that fact. But those who are satisfied with their experience are disproportionately people who weren't promised any money.

Next steps

This seems unsustainable. Houston appears to have had the largest amount of non-payment out of any of their shows so far, and the debt and bad PR is stacking up. TCG-con has announced that they're running a convention in Louisville in June, and another one in Tampa in October. It's possible that they plan to use the entry fees from Louisville to pay the people who are owed money from Houston. But even if they do this, it seems likely that they then won't have enough money to pay everyone at Louisville. And as any reformed gambler knows, reasoning like "just keep giving us money and we'll dig ourselves out of the hole soon" can be applied indefinitely, with no guarantee that it ever actually happens.

If Houston had been the first time this happened, I'd be inclined to believe them and give them a chance to fix things. But since these issues have been occurring consistently for more than a year, I think it's time for the community to cut its losses before things get worse. Given recent communications, it seems likely that Louisville and/or Tampa are going to be cancelled, and there's no guarantee that anyone who's already signed up will get their money back. And even if they do take place, it seems very possible that people who work the event will not get paid, and players who enter will not get prized. As such, I would recommend that people not attend Louisville or Tampa in any capacity that involves paying money to TCG-Con, and that you try to perform a chargeback for any tickets already purchased.

I'm compiling a list of people who are currently owed money by TCG-con for any reason. The total right now is about $11,000, but that's mostly just the Magic players and judges from Houston. If you're owed money from any other areas of the con, or any previous cons, please reach out and I'll add you to the list.

As for actually getting ahold of that money, that may be a challenge. One person told me that TCG-con had already filed for bankruptcy, but when I asked how they knew that they refused to answer and blocked me. A lawyer I know looked into the relevant records and was unable to find any such filing, so I suspect this was a lie. However the owners of TCG-con have said multiple times that they are considering bankruptcy and don't see any other path forwards. Their refusal to provide company details to the prospective buyer also supports the narrative that they're underwater financially.

The TCG-Con website was taken offline shortly after I made this post. There also used to be a TCG-con subreddit, run by the official TCG-con Reddit account, but it has now been deleted, which could imply they're in the process of shutting their operations down. However, all of their public communications on Facebook and their website say that Louisville and Tampa are going to go ahead as planned. (They did recently cancel Los Angeles, which was supposed to be taking place in June of 2024. They replaced it with Louisville. I don't know why.Their website still has a countdown timer to Los Angeles at the bottom of the page though.)

Convention centers are quite expensive and usually require a down payment, so if TCG-con is planning on running shows in Louisville and Tampa, it seems likely that they have at least a few thousand dollars available to them. But if they've already made the down payment they may not be able to get it back. They also have assets like all the equipment used to run the conventions, but it's unlikely that this equipment could be sold for a significant amount of money.

Some photos from their internal chats after Houston:

Continuing to pester TCG-con may or may not be worth doing. Private messages didn't seem to do much after Denver, but public comments on their Facebook posts tended to spur a rapid response. However there was recently a widely-shared post on Twitter about the problems with Houston, and TCG-con didn't seem to respond to that, which makes me think that they simply don't have the money and no amount of public shaming will get them to pay it.

If you do want to contact them, you can email them at or, or call or text them at 859-415-3997. They're also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. If those don't work, you can also try reaching out to the owners directly on Facebook: Dustin Griffith and Dez Timerding.Normally I think that criticism of a company should be restricted to the company itself and not the individuals it employs. But when it's the owners of the company, who have used their personal accounts to promote its events and perform official communications on behalf of the company, and the company is ignoring attempts to communicate via its official channels, I think it makes sense to reach out to the individuals in charge.

Another option is to look into small claims court. It's generally pretty easy to file, designed to be done by an individual without the need of a lawyer. As long as you have some documentation of what you're owed, even just informal, you're likely to win. It usually costs a fee to file, but often the court will force the losing party to cover the fees of the winning party. The risk of course is that you'll be unable to collect, if TCG-con doesn't have any money left.

If you do decide to go this route, TCG-con is officially known as Trading Card Game Con Inc. and is registered in Kentucky. Their physical base of operations is in Cincinnati. (I believe you'll be able to file a case in any state in which TCG-Con has run a convention that failed to pay you, but I'm not a lawyer, confirm this for yourself.)

Lastly I've heard that some states have labor boards that have legal power to force companies to pay their employees, and are much simpler to contact than the process to file a lawsuit. This wouldn't help the players who were denied prizes, but it would help any judges, cosplayers, and other staff members who have not been paid. (I'm told that this is still an option even for people who were technically private contractors and not employees, but again IDK, check this yourself.)

I'll keep this page updated with any new information I find out, please share it with anyone to whom it's relevant. If you have any information to add to this report, let me know and I'll add it. (I'm happy to leave you anonymous if you desire.) My top priority is to maximize the chance that people get the money they're owed and to minimize the chance that anyone else gets wronged in the future, so if you have any suggestions on either of those fronts, please don't hesitate to make them.


Dez made a post claiming to have paid off some of the debt to employees personally:

David, the former owner who left the company in 2023, made a post sharing James's video:

And a comment I found funny:

The last I heard was this on March 25th or so:

And multiple former employees have claimed that the company is likely dead at this point, and there will probably not be any further conventions. This is not yet confirmed, and they have been completely silent publicly, but it seems pretty likely.

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