Editor’s note: Make it Missoula has partnered with the University of Montana’s Online News class, taught by Lee Banville, to create a Student Journalism feature that’s all about local views, stories, and issues. We’re excited to provide these students with a platform so they can objectively explore and report about the topics they think reflect the lives and times of Missoula and its citizens.
By ALYSE BACKUS
DeLynn Colvert paces around the basement of the Joker’s Wild casino, chatting with people as he straightens out cribbage boards and hands out scorecards. After everyone has taken their seats on opposite sides of the wooden boards, Colvert makes the announcement.
The cribbage tournament is underway and with a quick shuffle of the deck of cards, Colvert is off.
When Colvert was young, his aunt taught him how to play cribbage, a card game that uses a little board and pegs to keep track of points. Colvert watched thousands of cribbage games, and every time one of those pegs moved forward on the wooden board, the wheels turned in his head.
“That was back before we had TV,” he says. “That’s when people played cards for entertainment.”
He would go on to become one of the experts in the game. In 1980, he published a book titled “Playing Winning Cribbage,” now its fourth edition. The book details a strategies of every type of deception and psychology.
Colvert didn’t write the book on a whim. He is considered the highest-ranked cribbage player in the world. He has claimed the national cribbage champion four times, and he is the president of the American Cribbage Congress. So in other words, his advice is highly regarded by cribbage players everywhere.
“I know of at least one other national champion who credits my book to his success,” says Colvert. “It’s the only book that tells when to play certain things.”
Before Colvert took on the world of competitive cribbage, he had another love: art. As part of his fine arts thesis at The University of Montana, he completed a mural that sits on the edge of campus on Arthur Street. The mural helped achieve the first fine arts master degree given at The University of Montana.
He then became a technical illustrator for the U.S. Forest Service.
“I did every thing in pen and ink,” says Colvert. “Now days, everything is done with computers.”
When he retired, the Forest Service hung his illustrations up in three of the building’s rooms.
Since his retirement, Colvert threw himself into cribbage. When he was trying to get his book published, he came across the American Cribbage Congress.
“I really didn’t know how to get my book published. So I was putting ads in magazines and such,” he says. “Then one day I got a call from the president at the time of the American Cribbage Congress in Connecticut. He said I should start a chapter in Montana. I became the only player, and then I been the director of the Montana chapter for 31 years. Now there [are] several hundred players around the state.”
Each year, Colvert travels over 40,000 miles to different tournaments around the country and in Mexico and Canada.
“I put 549,00 miles on a Honda,” he says. “I gave that one away as charity. Then I got a Toyota that I have put 186,00 miles on in five years. I like to drive. I really enjoy all the travel.”
Colvert hosts two annual tournaments a year in Missoula. He also is the editor of the monthly magazine “Cribbage World.” He is the only player to ever be awarded the status of Life Master Three Stars from the American Cribbage Congress.