There are 6 gyms in my area and every once in a while I will see that one of the gyms is completely undefended, which allows me to claim it. Why would this happen? In all the cases this has happened I looked around and no one was around, so I don't think anyone was in the process of claiming it before I did. Are people defeating gyms and then just forgetting to claim them?

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    Could also be that the previous gym leader was a cheater, got banned and kicked out of the gym, so gym is empty.
    – gitsitgo
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:33
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    Player took out the opposing team and battery died before getting theirs in?
    – Batophobia
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 22:37
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    @Batophobia Absolutely. I usually hit several gyms that are on the way home at the end of the day - I've had my battery quit after defeating a gym 3 times this week. :(
    – brichins
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 17:14
  • @gitsitgo what kind of cheating are you talking about? is there any evidence that cheating occurs and cheaters are banned?
    – abcd
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 18:35
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    I'm confused at the confusion. Gyms where I live never last more than half an hour. And I play actively enough to get way more potions than I need for my daily coin collection. So taking down gyms for XP is a great way to use those potions I'd otherwise have to throw away Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 2:18

12 Answers 12


Some of my friends leave conquered gyms undefended because, at least where we live, gyms are un-defendable. Trying to defend just leads to a loss of potions. So, we go out on marauding missions and destroy gyms. Our calling card is that we leave it undefended (or have Pikachu be the defender). I just did this last night! :-) I've heard others do this to maybe send a message to Niantic.

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    I do something similar. While I have my defender bonus on cooldown, I don't bother claiming gyms I beat. I just destroy what I can and move on. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:54
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    If someone claims the gym, you can kill it again for more XP.
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:59
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    Or you could put a CP 10 Magikarp that you intend to transfer anyway. It's amusing to see Magikarp flopping up there on top of the gym
    – Justin
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 6:33
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    "send a message to Niantic" ... yeah, no. They're playing the game, that's all Niantic cares about. What they do in the game is of little concern.
    – F.P
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 6:52
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    @FlorianPeschka yeah. This game is too addictive. And, I actually just thought of a strategy for gyms. After conquering one, make a Magikarp gym leader. Then, unleash your Rattata and Pidgeys to pound that poor fish to quickly and painlessly increase prestige. Finally, wait and watch the open gym slots fill by whoever notices them. Of course, I gain almost nothing as the good samaritan, but at least it's something interesting to do with gyms. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:25

As you said, this is entirely possible. It could also be:

  • Someone beats the gym with their last available pokemon, and has no way to revive their current pokemon.
  • Their game may have crashed after taking a gym, and be unable to play
  • May be due to bugs and issues

There is no tactical reason for this.

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    +1 but, there's something missing here about people getting banned. They ban in mass quantities people using location spoofers.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:19
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    There is a tactical reason. You get nothing for defending a gym except for the daily reward. If you already got the daily reward and you expect someone else to take the gym before you can get the reward again, then you have no incentive to defend the gym and a large disincentive to defend the gym through temporary loss of your pokemon and then loss of potions to heal them up to full. You might have defeated the old gym for the experience. An army of moderate cp rats and pidgeys can take most gyms before crushing them into candy. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:47

I don't see a reason to leave a gym undefended either.

There are a lot of factors that could stop you from claiming it though:

  • Public transport: Maybe you can start a fight but move before you are able to claim the gym
  • Running out of potions: The only requirement for a defending pokémon is 100% HP
  • Server, GPS or battery issues...

Another option would be for experience gain. Having someone else come take the gym, and then you quickly taking it back over to an empty gym can be a profitable way of gaining experience relatively quickly if the gym has a high turnover/passerby rate.

  • I do this fairly often. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 2:16
  • You and me both buddy, I have some highhh traffic gyms around me and being instinct.. I'm the rarity in town, so it works out perfectly ;)
    – ne0nlight
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 13:07

Aside from the previously mentioned, there are also those trainers who:

  • Do it on purpose in order to help newer players take control of the gym, and see their pokemon on top of the podium
  • Lurk/Live near the gym and wait in order to gain progress towards the Battle Girl achievement.

As David Jacobsen pointed out in one of the comments, if you have defender bonus on cooldown then there isn't much to be gained for taking the gym.

Let's try listing some positives and negatives for taking a gym when you have your defender cooldown on.


  • If gym is in remote area, hold on to gym to get bigger bonus next day
  • Helping out other members of your team to hold the gym for a little bit longer to allow them to get bigger defender bonus (nice guy bonus :) )
  • Creating name of yourself on the local area (having your pokemon on as many gyms as possible)


  • Loss of health items after pokemon gets beaten (unless using fodder)
  • Possibly have your best pokemon(s) sitting on the gym(s), unusable for your own attacks
  • Leaving fodder pokemon awards almost free experience to opposing team while not contributing to defence if someone else wants to hold on to the gym
  • Currently attacker has huge advantages over defender (dodging, choosing correct pokemon types, etc.)

In short: you are giving experience to opposing teams while netting only small benefits for yourself (or your team). Of course it's a whole different story if you are only high level person around...


Now that you need to use a Revive to heal your Pokémon who are kicked out of a gym, it's entirely possible that the battler is someone who simply enjoys battling, but doesn't want to waste their revives on healing Pokémon who were holding a gym if they've already gotten their gym-holding bonus for the day. Particularly as a role player (i.e., someone who plays Pokémon as an RPG, which the original game was) you could easily see someone defeating the gym to look out for their color but not want to waste resources on holding the gym themselves.


In addition to the above, there are those who don't care about holding a gym, but find it very fun to defeat a gym. It's not worth leaving a weak pokemon to defend a gym at this point, and they would want to keep their stronger pokemon to take over the next one. They wait for someone else to take the gym again so they can defeat it again. It's not always about being king of the hill, but it's fun to knock the current king down.


My first thought for why is experience. You get more for taking a gym than training it. I've done this before personally.

My friend also recently had an experience where a game shop's employees were continuously killing the gym (which could be reached from inside the shop). I think it was mostly to get people in the area to stay in the area (keep the players in the shop). I cannot guarantee that is the reason though.

  • Interesting idea - I can see a game shop's employees easily being high level and taking down a gym at their shop. Deliberately leaving an open gym as bait for real-world, nearby gamers (potential customers) would be pretty smart; a cool boss might even approve doing so. "Okay it's really slow today - you can mop the back room or take down some Pokemon gyms, your choice."
    – brichins
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 17:21
  • @brichins Yeah, for a business to take an employee that's there but has no needed tasks and put them to something that drums up business isn't exactly unusual. Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 2:18
  • @LorenPechtel certainly. Typically the assignments are something tedious though, like passing out flyers or sign-twirling on the street corner - rarely is it "take 20 and play this mobile game you wanted to play anyways."
    – brichins
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:58

People are missing the most obvious answer here: the person who defeated the gym was a passenger in a car/bus/train/etc. that goes past the gym. They clicked the gym right as they passed by, which allowed them to defeat the gym, but by the time the battle was over they were way too far away from it to actually put a pokemon in.

  • Last time I tried battling a gym while my GPS lost signal, the game kicked me out of the fight as soon as the gym went beyond the range at which you can initiate battles. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 12:51
  • Agreed - even sitting at a long light, it's nearly impossible to beat a gym from a car. Generally you can't even initiate the fight if the car is in motion.
    – brichins
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 15:15
  • That's weird, because I've done this multiple times while riding a train. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 19:07
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    Tried this again yesterday - was able to take a gym from a car once, started while sitting at a light but moved away before battle finished. Failed to initiate battle 2 other times while moving past a gym. The difference seems to be whether the gym fight has completely loaded and started before moving out of range of the gym.
    – brichins
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:00

This could also be the limit on the number of pokemon you are allowed to put into gyms. The max is 20 gyms and they could have been not keeping track.


I used to live on a gym spot, and whilst in the lower levels of the game, lv15 etc I used to leave the gyms vacant to entice people in, and win that gym multiple times per day. This gave me more XP per day than leaving the gym occupied.

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