the influence of poker in art

Poker has become such a popular game in the culture of many countries that it is no surprise that it is able to influence a wide variety of disciplines and activities. It’s hard to meet anyone on this planet who hasn’t heard of poker or even played or at least attended a game in their lifetime. And more complicated still would be to find a person who had never seen anything related in one way or another to poker. The expansion of poker on line and online poker tournaments has also been instrumental in developing poker and bringing it into the homes of large numbers of people.

The more is surprising that the cards have managed to find their place even in the works of art, and that they had a great importance in the career of some very well-known painters and others who are a little less so. Without looking far, it is enough to quote the Sevillian Diego Velázquez who, at the Dali museum in Figueres, has a hologram of one of his works representing players seated around a table and playing poker. Although it is impossible to identify the poker hands of each of the characters, it seems clear that the Spanish painter was marked by this game during his visit to the United States where he immersed himself in the culture of this pay.

Now let’s move on from the world famous Velázquez to one who was a little less so: Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. The New York artist had to follow a tortuous road before he could devote himself entirely to painting, but he left behind a series of marvelous paintings called “Dogs Playing Poker”. This set of canvases is undoubtedly the most famous work of art related to poker and, both in the United States and the rest of the world, it has had enormous repercussions. It would not be surprising to have a representation of one of these paintings at home, even though they are already more than a century old.

The man known as “Cash” painted these paintings in 1894, with the idea of ​​representing the tastes of North American society at the end of the 19th century and which will continue throughout the 20thth century. Poker made a strong impression as soon as it arrived on the new continent, and it was in the USA that it became a real religion, with hordes of talented players able to improve their abilities and strategies in Texas Hold’em. . The best known and most popular variant of this discipline is strangely not the one represented in Dogs Playing Poker. Marcellus created this series of sixteen paintings, nine of which are in oil, for the advertising campaign of a brand of cigarettes.

THE poker draw is the protagonist of this series of webs, a game belonging to those other lesser-known poker variants. In this version, the players each have five cards in hand, and it is with these that they will have to make the best possible combination, apart from a few subtleties. It is a way of playing which is often considered more amateurish and ideal for players who have not yet mastered all the codes of Texas Hold’em and poker in general. It’s a fairly basic way to learn how to play poker before moving on to more elaborate tactics.

In the “A Bold Bluff” painting, we see a commentary of a dog putting in a large amount of chips despite only having a pair of 2s while the rest of the diners stare at him in disbelief. In the one entitled “Waterloo”, we can see how one of the dogs is devastated to discover that he could have won the game with his hand if he had not gone to bed just before. And in “A Friend in Need”, we observe a bulldog giving an Ace to the dog at his side under the table in order to complete his four Aces, the very representation of cheating (first image).

The quad of Aces also appears in “Pinched with Four Aces” when one of the dogs, holder of this quad, allows to beat another who then seems to withdraw from his seat. And undoubtedly the most serious, in this series which tends to tend towards the comic, are “Poker Sympathy” and “Stranger in Camp” where we see how a four aces is neutralized by his opponent’s straight flush. (picture above). Just like “His Station and Four Aces” where all the dogs sit around the table with habits reminiscent of the North American mafias of the time, because it was not only poker that Cash wanted to refer to.

The Dogs Playing Poker have become so famous that they have appeared in many movies, TV series and cartoons. In Marvel comics, it is possible to find cases that are directly inspired by Coolidge’s paintings, since the dogs are replaced by superheroes here. In Snoopy too, we can see the main character playing poker around a table with his friends. While in The Simpsons, not only does the family dog ​​appear in a game playing with fellow canines (image below), but a tableau of Dogs Playing Poker also appears in a special Halloween episode. .

Poker has therefore managed to find its place in art, demonstrating that this game is, in itself, an art in its own right.

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