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Washington Elementary students aim to place themselves in the 'stink hole'

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Competing in a cribbage tournament at Sunnyside's Washington Elementary School is Natalie Ambriz. Looking at the cards in his hand is her pone, opponent, Edgar Villa-Gomez.

In what other card game can you use terms like "muggins," "his nobs," "his nibs" and "stink hole" but in the game of cribbage?

At Sunnyside's Washington Elementary School students are learning to be competitive, as well as maintaining math skills.

They have the opportunity to use the fun terminology that comes with other card games like "flush," two-of-a-kind and "straight."

A stink hole is the 120th hole on a cribbage board, which is one hole short of the game-winning hole, known as the game hole.

Skunk is the term used when a player wins by 31 or more points and skunk double means the player won the cribbage match by 61 or more points.

All the terms are fun, but Washington Elementary School Counselor Diego Alvarez and many of the teachers feel there is a great value in teaching the students how to play cribbage.

"There's a lot of counting involved," said Alvarez, who said the game reinforces math strategies used in the school, including the Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) programs.

"There's a lot of repetition and chanting, the use of colors and pictorial representation, as well as discussion involved in cribbage," he said.

For these reasons, he believes cribbage is a game that benefits the students and the learning environment.

"Some schools use chess, but I feel cribbage is easier to use," said Alvarez of the card game that is played with a board and pegs.

Some students, said Alvarez, began learning the game early in the school year and others are new to the game.

Jason Pina Jr. said it is a game he enjoys although he has only been playing cribbage for a month.

He and fellow fifth grader Chastitee Garza said the game brings out the competitive spirit.

"I like playing it so much, I play it on the internet," said Garza.

Both students said they want their families to learn how to play cribbage.

"The most difficult part is figuring out how many points you have," said Pina.

Alvarez said he first introduced the game to students at Washington Elementary School three years ago. At the end of the school year, he organizes a cribbage tournament.

"It keeps them busy the last week of school," he joked.

The tournament, however, is pretty serious for the students. More than 100 fifth and fourth graders participated in this year's tournament, which started this past Tuesday.

The field was on the first day narrowed to 32 competitors, and when all is said and done, the final four will be the recipients of their own cribbage boards custom designed by Sunnyside's James Morrow.

Morrow, said Alvarez, has supported the tournament for a couple of years.

"He organizes cribbage tournaments and participates in them," said Alvarez.

He said the tournaments at Washington Elementary School wouldn't be possible without the support of the school's staff members, who help students learn to play cribbage and volunteer during the tournament.

"This also teaches the students social skills," Alvarez said of an added benefit to the program.

He said educators are always seeking ways to emphasize good citizenship in conjunction with academic skills.

"Cribbage is a good component for all that we are trying to do," said Alvarez.

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