Dogs Playing Poker
When most people think of the seminal work by renowned American oil painter Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, they are likely mainly thinking of the most popular work, "A Friend in Need." This painting depicts seven dogs seated around a poker table with a bulldog secretly passing an Ace to a dog seated beside him. To the close observer, this additional Ace gives the receiving dog a Four of a Kind. However, the famous oil painter actually painted a series of nine works depicting the play of poker by dogs during his career.
Featured in the Super bowl advertisements of 1998 and 1999 as well as expounded by the $590,400 auction for a pair of the original nine "dogs playing poker" paintings (A Bold Bluff and Waterloo), the paintings quickly became a rapidly reproduced item popular on coffee mugs and posters alike. Coolidge was also credited with being the first to create painted cutouts into which people could insert their heads for the purpose of photographs.
In 1903, Coolidge was offered a contract with Brown and Bigelow (an advertising firm) to paint a total of 16 paintings over the course of several years. These paintings would be required to include dogs engaged in activities that would normally be associated with humans. Although he painted a few playing sports, pool or simply relaxing with a paper and cigar, the vast majority of these were of dogs playing poker.
Dogs Playing Poker Art
During his career, C.M. Coolidge created 19 works of art. Of these, 17 depicted dogs participating in activities normally reserved for humans. Of these 17, nine depicted dogs playing cards. The titles of each of these nine were:
Click on any of the thumbnail images to download the full sized "Dogs Playing Poker" image.
A Bold Bluff: From the perspective of the viewer, the St. Bernard in the picture has nothing in his hand. The rest of the dogs around the table are carefully and suspiciously staring at the poker faced dog suggesting that he has just made a "bold bluff."
A Friend in Need: the most famous of the series, one dog is shown passing an Ace to another dog that needs it to form four Aces.
His Station and Four Aces: This station shows a shocked and dismayed dog (once again holding the coveted four Aces) with the small stack. The train conductor has arrived to inform the dogs playing poker that they must get off. This, of course, means that the short stacked dog will not be able to complete the strong hand. It is interesting to note the size of the pot that he would stand to win.
Pinched with Four Aces: This once again famous oil painting shows an illegal dog poker game being broken up by the police (also dogs). While the collie in the foreground attempts to sneak away, the bulldog with four Aces is noticeably upset about the ordeal.
Post Mortem: The only picture in the series where a poker game is not literally in progress but simply implied by a deck of cards and chips, this painting depicts three dogs enjoying beverages and snacks.
Poker Sympathy: Often regarded as one of the most famous of the series next to "A Friend in Need," Poker Sympathy depicts a dog losing with four Aces against a straight flush. The painting shows seven dogs enjoying the lone dog's terrible bad beat.
Sitting Up With a Sick Friend: In this quite comical oil painting, two female dogs have burst into a room where five male dogs are in the process of playing poker, suggesting that they lied and said they were visiting a sick dog. One of the dogs is shown on all fours, scrambling to get away but failing to avoid a whack with one of the female dog's umbrellas.
Stranger in Camp: This less known Coolidge oil painting shows three dogs in a poker game where, much like in Poker Sympathy, four Aces is defeated by a low straight flush. As the tile suggests, the dogs are playing poker while camping in the woods.
Waterloo: Waterloo is considered to be the pair to A Bold Bluff not only because of their famous sale together, but because Waterloo shows the result of A Bold Bluff. The dogs have all folded to the St. Bernard and he reveals his cards to the shock and anger of the other dogs around the table.
Dogs Playing Poker Reproductions
Today, you can obtain a copy of any of the dogs playing poker oil paintings by simply downloading the image to use as a computer wallpaper or purchasing a print at one of the many web sites offering reproductions on the Internet. These prints are available in many forms such as T-shirts, puzzles, posters, prints, coffee mugs and even mouse pads. While many artists took their queues from Coolidge and began painting their own versions of the dogs playing cards series, many collectors value the original nine paintings above any others.
Other 'Dogs Playing Poker' Resources
This page is as good of a basic overview of 'Dogs Playing Poker' and Cassius Marcellus Coolidge's work. For a much more in-depth look at Coolidge and his many works of art, visit DogsPlayingPoker.org. They have done a wonderful job for years compiling the most detailed info on these talented dogs. You can also check out Wikipedia's Dogs Playing Poker page, although DogsPlayingPoker.org is much more thorough.