Dogs Playing Poker

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His Station and Four Aces by C. M. Coolidge, 1903.

Dogs Playing Poker, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, refers collectively to an 1894 painting, a 1903 series of sixteen oil paintings commissioned by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars, and a 1910 painting.[1] All eighteen paintings in the overall series feature anthropomorphized dogs, but the eleven in which dogs are seated around a card table have become well known in the United States as examples of kitsch art in home decoration.

Critic Annette Ferrara has described Dogs Playing Poker as "indelibly burned into ... the American collective-schlock subconscious ... through incessant reproduction on all manner of pop ephemera".[2]

The first painting, Coolidge's 1894 Poker Game, realized $658,000 at a Sotheby's New York sale on 18 November 2015.[3]

Coolidge paintings[edit]

Poker Game, oil on canvas, 1894, sold for $658,000 in 2015

The title of Coolidge's 1894 painting is Poker Game.

The titles in the Brown & Bigelow Dogs Playing Poker series are:

  • A Bachelor's Dog – reading the mail
  • A Bold Bluff – poker (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Stands Pat on Nothing)[4]
  • Breach of Promise Suit – testifying in court
  • A Friend in Need (1903) – poker, cheating
  • His Station and Four Aces (1903) – poker
  • New Year's Eve in Dogville – ballroom dancing
  • One to Tie Two to Win – baseball
  • Pinched with Four Aces – poker, illegal gambling
  • Poker Sympathy – poker
  • Post Mortem – poker, camaraderie
  • The Reunion – smoking and drinking, camaraderie
  • Riding the Goat – Masonic initiation
  • Sitting up with a Sick Friend (1905) – poker, gender relations
  • Stranger in Camp – poker, camping
  • Ten Miles to a Garage – travel, car trouble, teamwork
  • A Waterloo (1906) – poker (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Wins on a Bluff) (1906)[4]

These were followed in 1910 by a similar painting, Looks Like Four of a Kind.

Some of the compositions in the series are modeled on paintings of human card-players by such artists as Caravaggio, Georges de La Tour, and Paul Cézanne.[4]

On February 15, 2005, the originals of A Bold Bluff and Waterloo were auctioned as a pair to an undisclosed buyer for US $590,400.[5] The previous top price for a Coolidge was $74,000.[6] The 2015 sale price of Coolidge's 1894 Poker Game, $658,000, is now the highest price paid for a Coolidge.

In popular culture[edit]

A Waterloo, 1906
  • In the TV sitcom Cheers, Sam Malone loves the paintings (in particular one of Dogs Playing Blackjack) while his more sophisticated lover, Diane Chambers, hates them. Sam says that he sees something new every time he looks at it.
  • The set for the TV show Roseanne had a reproduction of one of the paintings in Roseanne and Dan's bedroom, not the living room as is commonly believed.
  • The cover of the 1981 album, Moving Pictures, by Rush, features several pictures being moved, one of which is a DPP.
  • The animated television series The Simpsons has made several references to the paintings, such as in "Treehouse of Horror IV" when Homer is driven to insanity by his mix of intense fear and intense amusement in response to one of the paintings. [7]
  • The short story "A Gamble with Wildthyme" by Steve Lyons concerns the cheating taking place in A Friend in Need
  • Dogs Playing Poker TV ads were aired during ESPN Sunday Night Football during the 1998 and 1999 NFL seasons.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Saving Private Brian", Mayor West is discovered playing poker with dogs. In the episode "Road to Rhode Island", Stewie comments on the Dogs Playing Poker paintings hanging on a wall, and suggests that since Jesus is alone in one of the other paintings, the dogs should invite him to their card game.
  • In the play The Foreigner, a character complains that she doesn't want to be in her motel room because there is a "Damn picture on the wall of some dogs playin' poker."
Sitting up with a Sick Friend (circa 1905)
  • In the television show NewsRadio's spoof of the film Titanic, characters fleeing the sinking ship/radio broadcasting studio dump famous artworks, but hold on to a Dogs Playing Poker painting, which a character claims is a "great picture".
  • In the 1999 film remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, Banning believes she finds a stolen Monet in Crown's house. On expert examination it turns out to be a fake painted on top of a Dogs Playing Poker canvas, Poker Sympathy.
  • In an episode of the TV series That '70s Show ("Hunting"), DPP is parodied by the characters taking the places of the dogs.
  • In an episode of Animaniacs, a young Pablo Picasso's artistic frustration is demonstrated by his producing a DPP painting.
  • In an episode of White collar the main protagonist, who is considered an expert on art, jokes about hanging a DPP on a wall.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic mentions Dogs Playing Poker in his song "Velvet Elvis".
  • In an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Courage goes into a DPP painting and picks up an untouched card hand. He laughs and puts it down, which shocks the other dogs upon seeing that the hand is a royal flush. Courage is then kicked out of the painting by one of the dogs.
  • In an episode of My Gym Partner's A Monkey Adam is told to look inside his brain, and what he see is reminiscent of a DPP painting.
  • In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Finder", Stitch (who was adopted by Lilo as a "dog") plays a game of poker with his experiment "cousins" with cookies in place of poker chips.
  • In a The Far Side cartoon a homeless artist lays in the street, surrounded by unsold paintings similar to DPP but depicting other animals such as giraffes, bugs, chickens and gators. The caption recalls that someone said, "Hey, have you ever tried dogs playing poker"?
  • In the 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days, Monique has a painting of Dogs Playing Poker in her sketchbook.
  • In Wizards of the Coast's Magic the Gathering 2004 Arena league the card 'Mise' has a picture of dogs play Magic. [8]
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a number of dog characters in the series are seen playing poker at Yosemite Sam's casino.
  • In the TV series Boy Meets World, Eric is cleaning out the garage when he finds one of the Dogs Playing Poker paintings, and shows his parents.
  • In the indie computer game Undertale, the dogs who make up the royal canine unit are seen playing poker in a restaurant.
A Friend in Need (1903)
  • In the 2009 animated film Up, several dog characters are briefly seen playing poker, using a pile of Milk-Bones as poker chips.
  • In the 2010 videogame Fallout New Vegas, in the cyberdog training area of the Big MT(Old World Blues DLC), the dogs can be found learning how to play poker.
  • In the animated series Rick and Morty "Lawnmower Dog" episode, five intelligent dogs play poker and smoke cigars while using their advanced robotic suits.
  • In the 2013 video game Poker Night 2, Brock Samson may, at any point during a given game, come to the amused realization that Sam is a dog playing poker. Sam fails to recognise the reference.
  • In the 2016 film, The Accountant, the paintings are discussed by the lead characters. Later, a copy of A Friend in Need is used as a cover to hide a Jackson Pollock painting.
  • In an episode of the 2018 television series Disenchantment, "Love's Tender Rampage", the characters walk past a shop in which dogs are playing poker.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dogs Playing Poker". Ooo Woo – Complete Dog Resource. 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2006.[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Ferrara, Annette (April 2008). "Lucky Dog!". Ten by Ten Magazine. Chicago: Tenfold Media. Archived from the original on March 27, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2006.
  3. ^ "That Dogs Playing Poker Painting Just Sold for Over $650,000". GQ.
  4. ^ a b c McManus, James. "Play It Close to the Muzzle and Paws on the Table," New York Times (December 3, 2005).
  5. ^ "A New York auction offers artistic treats for dog lovers," San Jose Mercury News (Feb 11, 2005).
  6. ^ "'Dogs Playing Poker' sell for $590K". CNN. February 16, 2005. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  7. ^ The Simpsons. Accessed on 2009-04-30
  8. ^


  • Harris, Maria Ochoa. "It's A Dog's World, According to Coolidge," A Friendly Game of Poker (Chicago Review Press, 2003).