Dogs playing poker: the influence of poker on art and painting

Dogs playing poker

Poker has become such a popular game in the culture of many countries that it is not surprising that it is capable of influencing all kinds of disciplines and activities. It is difficult to find people in our civilisation who have not heard of poker at some time or who have not played or seen it played at some time. It is even harder to find someone who has not witnessed something to do with poker. The expansion of online poker and online poker tournaments has also made it possible for the game to reach a wider audience.

The curious thing is that playing cards have even been present in works of art and have had a place in the careers of some very famous painters, and some who were not so famous. Without going any further, the Sevillian Diego Velázquez has a hologram in the Dalí Museum in Figueres where you can see players seated at a table playing poker. Although it is not possible to identify the poker hands of each player, it does seem clear that the Spanish painter was impregnated with the game due to the time he spent in the United States soaking up its culture.

And from the world famous Velázquez to another who was not as important as Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. The New York artist had a long way to go before he could devote himself to painting, but along the way he left a wonderful series of paintings called “Dogs Playing Poker”. The set of canvases is undoubtedly the most famous work of art related to poker and has had a gigantic impact both in the United States and around the world. It will not be unusual to have a reproduction of one of these or similar paintings at home, even though they are more than a hundred years old.


The man known by the nickname of “Cash” painted these pictures in 1894, with the idea of representing the tastes of American society at the end of the 19th century and which would continue throughout the 20th century. Poker took off on its arrival on the continent and it was in the USA that it became a true religion, with an impressive legion of players trying to improve their skills and learn to play Texas Holdem. The best known and most popular variant of this discipline, curiously, is not the one represented by dogs playing poker. Nine oil paintings out of the total of sixteen that Marcellus created as an advertising campaign for a cigarette brand.

Poker with discarded cards is the protagonist of this series of paintings, a game belonging to those other, lesser-known variants of poker. In this game, the players have five cards in their hands, and with them they have to form the best possible combination, regardless of any draws from the deck that may be made. This form of the game is usually considered more amateurish and ideal for players who have not yet mastered the art of Texas Holdem or poker in general. With this you learn the basics and then move on to a more elaborate strategy.

“A Bold Bluff”

In the painting “A Bold Bluff” we see how one of the dogs bets a large number of chips when he only has a pair of deuces, while the rest of the players look on in disbelief. It is undoubtedly a reference to what would be a bluff in poker. While in “Waterloo” we can see how one of the dogs is surprised to have folded with a hand that would have won the game. And it is in “A Friend in Need” where we see a bulldog giving an ace under the table to the dog next to him so that he can complete a poker of aces. The representation of cheating.

“Pinched with Four Aces”,

The poker of aces also appears in “Pinched with Four Aces”, when one of the dogs manages to beat the other dog with that hand and the loser is shown leaving his seat. And undoubtedly the hardest ones, always within the comic context of this series, are “Poker Sympathy” and “Stranger in Camp”, where we see how the aces are neutralised by a straight flush from the opponent. Even in “His Station and Four Aces” we see the dogs sitting at a table dressed as the American mafias of the time did back then. It was not only poker that Cash wanted to refer to.

Dogs playing poker have been so famous that they have even appeared in several films, well-known television series and cartoon series. In Marvel comics, you can see cartoons that are similar to some of the pictures mentioned above, only with superheroes taking the place of dogs. In Snoopy, the main character and his friends could also be seen playing poker at a table, while in the Simpsons, not only does the family dog appear in a scene playing with his buddies at a table, but a Halloween episode shows a picture of dogs playing poker as such. Poker also makes an appearance in art, showing that this game is also presented as such: as art.