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Washer pitching is a game, similar to horseshoes, that involves teams of players that take turns tossing washers towards a box or hole. The game has many variations, and may be called washer pitching, washer toss, washers, huachas or washoes (which is based on the similarity to horseshoes).
The object of the game is to earn points by tossing metal washers, usually around two inches in diameter, and 1/8 inch thick, toward a hole, usually denoted by a can or PVC pipe, known as the cooter, often in a box. Washer pits and boxes vary in size and shape, but a standard for one-hole washers is 16 in × 16 in × 4 in, with a cylindrically-shaped cup (4½ inches in diameter and 5 inches in height) located in its upper surface. Boxes are placed approximately 20 feet away from each other, a distance often determined by a string attached to the front of each box. However, if a string is not attached to the box, one may take 10 paces from box-to-box, this will usually denote 20 feet.
The throwing player stands next to or behind one box and tosses washers toward the other, normally using an underhand throw. Scoring is similar to horseshoes in that the second team to throw can wash-out/rebut any points that the first team may have scored, then add to their own total. 3 points are awarded to a non-rebutted ringer (a washer in the cup). 1 point is awarded to each non-rebutted washer inside the box. Games are normally played to 21 points.
Numerous variants are practiced that vary the size of the washers, the distance they must be thrown, the configuration of the boxes, or the size and number of holes.
In Alberta, Canada, the game is simply called Washers and boxes are not used. The scoring surface is a 3/4 in thick board, approximately 12 in × 12 in with a 4 in hole in the middle. Another 3/4 in board, about 4 in × 12 in is nailed vertically to the end of the scoring surface to form a "T" shape with about 2 inches on either side of the scoring surface. The scoring surface is angled towards the pitcher. 1 point is awarded for a washer that comes to rest completely on the scoring surface, 2 points are awarded for a washer that comes to rest with a portion of the washer hanging off the playing surface (whether that is the side, front, or the hole), 3 points are awarded for a washer that ends up in the hole, 4 points are awarded if the washer comes to rest on an angle against the upright piece of the board but not lying flat on the scoring surface and 5 points are awarded if the washer comes to rest lying flat on top of the upright board. The 5-point shot is incredibly difficult and extremely rare due to the fact that the upright board is only 3⁄4 in thick. No points are awarded for close throws. The scoring surfaces are placed approximately 20 ft apart, but the distance is not regulated and depends on the terrain. The game is popular at Slo-Pitch tournaments and other outdoor festivities.
In Nova Scotia, Canada, the game is an East Coast favourite often called washer toss, Sewers, or South Mountain Horseshoes. The game consists of two open 35cm boxes, each with a 10cm length of PVC pipe mounted in the centre. The scoring surface is lined with red felt or other fabrics. The boxes are separated by a distance of 6 metres. 1 point is awarded for a washer that comes to rest completely on the scoring surface, 3 points are awarded for a washer that ends up in the hole, and the player wins the game if the washer comes to rest lying flat on top of the upright board or they reach 21. No points are awarded for close throws. Some people throw two washers at once or pitch with their non-dominant hand. The game is popular at community events, festivals, camping or at the cottage.
In the Sai Kung area of Hong Kong, a variant of the game known as Hong Kong "Holeyboard" has become popular amongst local expatriates living in the area. It is a derivative of original washers, and was brought over to Hong Kong by North Americans who moved to the area some years ago. It is usually played on the roof terrace of a participant's home and a unique set of rules (and boxes) have evolved over the years. Each player, or team must stand on a three holed "Holeyboard" placed ten feet apart. Each player is given three washers each. The closest hole is 1 point, the middle hole 3 and the furthest hole 5, with 3 washers landing on the board scoring 1 (Although you cannot win the game using this method). The game is to 21. 'Wash outs' (a washer landing on your opponent's) apply and the player must finish on exactly 21; if a player goes over, the amount is deducted from the players score. If a player's washer bounces back and is within the player's grasp, the player may attempt to reach the washer while standing on the board. If the player successfully picks up the washer, he gets to throw it again. A "cycle" is the highest accolade in Holeyboard, it is when a player manages to hit each of the three holes with their three washers. This results in an instant win and is rewarded by the player being able to sign his name on the back of the Holeyboard. One player, known as the "Smart Bomb" for his accuracy, is known to have so far scored 37 cycles in his two-year Holeyboard career.
In Colorado, there is a variant played (similar to the Illinois version) with 15 in × 15 in boxes constructed of 2 × 4s, with a 4 in PVC pipe in the middle. Sand is placed in the box and pipe. 3⁄4 in (inside diameter) washers are used and the boxes are placed 30 ft apart (measured from front of the box to front of the box). A player stands at each box. To score points, each player gets five washers to throw one at a time. The goal is to land the washers inside or close to the opponent’s washer box. The object of the game is to score 21 points before the opponent. When a player scores 21 points, the game is not necessarily over. The opponent is granted the opportunity to throw again (fair-ups) to force a tie or over-time. If the opponent fails to force a tie, the game is over. A winner is determined once the opponent completes his fair-ups and is unable to tie or take the lead. A washer in the pipe (called a dinger) is worth 5 points. A washer in the box, outside of the pipe, is worth 2 points. A washer resting on the rim of the box is worth 3 points. A washer leaning on the outside of the box, or within one washer of the box is worth one point. This game can be played as singles or doubles. There is an annual Colorado Washers Tournament held in Denver, Colorado.
In Connecticut, there is yet another variation of the game. The backyard game of Washers in Connecticut is played with the Fender Washer. The game is played with two teams, consisting of two players per team, four players total. The target washer board is different from other places here. Certain towns in Connecticut (Killingly and Brooklyn) play with a board that is roughly 20 inches width and length. The hole in the middle is the same size of a washers box hole. However the board is also propped up by 6 inch back board, thus raising the 20 inch board on a bit of an angle, and giving the washers a three-inch backboard to keep them in play. The boards are tied together by a thin white rope, and stretched out to 16 feet apart, using the rope for a straight line, as well as the proper length of field. Games are played to 21, 1 point for on the board, 3 for in the hole. Also scoring rules vary, however the opponents have the opportunity to cancel out points by the opposing team, either by tying their shot, and also have the possibility to win over a round by outscoring the other opponents shots. Such as if the opposing team placed two on the board for 2 points, and the other team places one on the board, and one in the whole, that is a total of 4 points, and that team would receive 2 points for canceling the others out.
In Hawaiʻi there is a variant played with a 15 in × 15 in box, 6 in front, and 11 in backboard called variously "Portuguese horseshoes," "Potagee horseshoes," "Podagee horseshoes," "Portagee horseshoes," etc. Games are generally played to 30, with 1 point for on the box, 2 for leaner or covering part of the hole, 3 for in the hole, automatic win if you land balancing on the backboard. Kailua General Store is regarded as the premium manufacturer of regulation Portuguese Horseshoe boxes in Hawaii.
In the Kentucky State Washer Pitching Championships, two teams of one or two players pitch 21⁄8 in (outside diameter) washers at a 3-in hole, with children pitching from a distance of 25 ft and adults from 30 ft. Games go to 21 points, and must be won by two points. Matches are decided by winning two out of three games.
In Michigan, there is a two to six player variant in which there are no teams and every man plays for himself. Two boxes are placed next to each other. Multiple different color washers are used and all players throw towards the two boxes from a distance of twenty feet. Initial player order is randomly determined at the start of the game and after the first round, is then determined by the player with the most points throwing first, second most - second, and so on. In turn, each player throws all three of his/her washers. Total points are then calculated like a normal washer game with the exception that there are two boxes, and each box scores itself. Scoring and rebutting occurs after all washers have been thrown by all players. The first individual player to 21 points is the winner. Have to win by two. This variation will create team dynamics within the game as the game leader can easily be targeted minimizing their points.
In Saint Louis, Missouri, the boxes are 12 in × 12 in and are spaced 21 ft apart. The can may also be created with a large coffee can, with no sand or astro-turf on the base. The games are played to 21 with a mercy (skunk) rule of 11-0. Two washers are thrown per turn with cans counting as 2 points and anything in the box counting as 1 point. Cancel play is enforced when one player matches the other players throw but a can cancels all boxes. Many variations are played, but these are the rules for the Busch Washer League tournaments held across the state. The game is also part of the Missouri State Senior Games.
In Las Cruces, New Mexico, huachas (a Spanish name for washers) uses washers with 21⁄2-in outside diameter and 1-in inside diameter. Washers are thrown into a 3- or 4-in hole, with the two holes placed 25 or 30 ft apart. A 5 ft × 3 ft area around the cup, called the "pit", may be framed with wood or tape and filled with soil. The player whose washer lands closest to the hole earns one point, and landing the washer in the hole will garner four points. A "hanger" is a washer teetering on the edge of the hole, and can earn a player extra points. The first player to reach 21 points is the winner.
In a variant played in Lake George, New York, in August 2008, the boxes are placed 10 "Garys" away (approximately 10 feet) and the participants must remain seated when pitching. Games are played to 11 points with a match made up of a best of three game series. 1 point is awarded for a washer "in the box", 3 points for a washer "in the pipe" and 2 points for a washer which remains on the box edge. Points are taken away or "cleaned" by matching previously pitched washers.
The original version of Washer Toss created in Texas during the oil boom of 1901, there are no boards. The washers are 1-inch I.D., 2 1/2 inch O.D. x 1/8 inch thick. The PVC cups are either 3-inch, 31⁄2-inch or 4-inch (3 is the preferred size) I.D., 21 feet apart. The washer "pits" (where the cups are buried) should be approximately 48 inches square and consist of a sandy or loamy soil. The game is played to 21 points. The closest washer to the cup is awarded 1 point. A touching leaner is awarded 2 points. A "see though leaner " - any washer protruding the hole over the edge of the inside of the cup - is awarded 3 points. A "ringer" gets you 5 points. If your opponent lands on your ringer they get the point, and the other washers are scored normally.
In the Central Illinois Washers variant, the game uses wooden boxes with 2 × 4 sides (15 inches outside / 12 inches inside). The boxes have plywood bottoms (1⁄2-3⁄4 innc thick – 15 inches × 15 inches square) and are lined with carpet - (12 inch × 12 inch – thickness optional, short/medium is preferable). A 4-inch PVC pipe is cut to a height that is level with the top of the side boards. The boxes are placed 30 ft apart (front of Box 1 to front of Box 2) on level ground, preferably going North and South to avoid sunlight distraction for one side/player.
Four steel or brass washers are used, having (21⁄2-inch outer diameter and 1-inch inside diameter and approximately 1⁄8-inch thickness. Two small opposing holes are drilled in two of the four washers for team designation.
Players throw the washers in attempt to get in, on or near to the box or in the pipe. When throwing, the player may stride forward of the front of the box or remain entirely in back of the box, but at least one foot must remain behind the front of the box. (The front is the side facing the opponent.) In other words, players may stand next to the box and stride past it with one foot. In the traditional four-player game, players throw two washers each, throwing both before the opponent throws their two. A player may throw both washers at once, but this may decrease accuracy. The style of throw is dependent only upon player preference, and the scoring team throws first in the next round.
Players earn one point for a washer landing within one foot of the box, or leaning next to the box, or under the box. Two points are scored if a washer rests lying on the top edge of the box. Three points are scored for washers landing inside the box, but not in the pipe, and five points when the washer lands inside the pipe.
Only one team/player scores per round, as illustrated in the following scenarios:
- Player 1 throws both washers five feet away from the box while Player 2 throws one in the box and one 10 inches from the box. Player 2 scores 4 (3 + 1).
- Player 1 throws one away and one within 5 inches of the box. Player 2 throws one away and one in the pipe. Even though Player 1 has a valid 1-pt. throw, his washer is cancelled out by Player 2's throw in the pipe. Player 2 scores 5.
- Player 1 throws one in the box and one within 10 inches of the box. Player 2 throws both within 5 inches of the box. Player 2 cancelled out Player 1's 1-pt. throw, but is still outside of Player 1's box throw. Because player 1 was in the box, it cancelled out both of player 2's close throws. Player 1 scores 3.
- If each team throws a washer under the box or both throw a leaner, they cancel each other out and neither scores. If one team throws a washer under the box and the other team throws a leaner, the team under the box scores (under beats leaner). However, any throw in the box or pipe cancels ALL opposing washers outside the box, whether they are within 12 inches, leaning, or under the box.
After all 4 washers have been thrown, points are tallied. It is possible for a washer to knock another washer into a better OR worse position during play. If one washer should move, shift or alter another washer during a throw, the final resting places of both washers are noted and scores tallied accordingly. Because washers can hit each other during play and affect their final position, do not move any washers until all are thrown.
In Illinois, the traditional four-player game, with two teams of two players, is played to 21 points. Three-player games, with three teams of one player, play to 31 points. Two-player games play to 51 points.
Note: All end scores must be reached exactly. If a player scores too many points in a round, they must subtract that round's point value from their score previous to the round and continue play. Example: In a 4-player game to 21 points, Team 1 has 19 points, but throws one in the box. Team 1 loses 3 points, going back to 16 points, and the next round begins. All scoring washers in the round are counted toward the negative score, not just the throw that exceeded the limit. Example: Team 1 has 16 points, then throws one in the box for an interim 3 points, but then throws the second in the box as well for a total of 6 points. Adding that 6 points to the beginning score of 16 exceeds the 21-pt goal, so the team deducts 6 points from 16 and starts the next round with 10 points.
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