APPLE VALLEY Forget the family table after Thanksgiving: The biggest Monopoly game of the year will be taking place in April.


Apple Valley Christian School will be the site of what organizers hope will be the first annual High Desert Monopoly Championship.


The tournament is the brainchild of Tim Vandenberg, a math teacher at Carmel Elementary School in Hesperia. He has been using the board game to teach statistics to his students for several years, and credits it as one of the reasons his students have seen higher test scores as a result. His interest in the math behind Monopoly led Vandenberg to the Monopoly National Championships in 2009, where he came in second place, as depicted in the documentary "Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story."


"I got to see first-hand the thrill that people receive from playing strategic, intelligent competitive Monopoly. We thought that this would be a fun, fantastic, family-friendly fundraising opportunity," Vandenberg said. Proceeds from the tournament will go to support AVCS.


As opposed to sometimes-slow home games which Vandenberg says are typically due to house rules like money in Free Parking that keep players from going bankrupt as fast as they ought to each round of the tournament will be capped at 90 minutes of play and will be as much about strategy and trading as luck.


"It's much like poker: Yes, luck is part of it, but what you do with the hand (or properties) you're dealt is really who determines the winner," he said. "I usually play complete games with my 6th graders in about 45 minutes, so if they can do this, anyone else can."


The championship will be split into junior (grades 6 through 12) and senior (adult) divisions. And while Vandenberg won't be playing himself, there will be a number of championship-level players on hand.


Entrants are guaranteed two 90-minutes round of play and a shot at $2,000 in prizes.


The First Annual High Desert Monopoly Championship will take place on Saturday, April 14 at Apple Valley Christian School, 22434 Nisqually Road.


For more information, email timsyv@gmail.com or visit AVCSchool.com.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.