Dogs Playing Poker: Disastrous Or The Most Successful Dog Art?

a cover photo of dogs playing poker

Dogs Playing Poker Painting!

A piece of art that amazed the world when it was out in the public domain in the early 20th century. 

But what made it so famous?

And why has the artist portrayed dogs as if they were humans? 

Keep reading to know more about the Dogs Playing Poker Painting facts and stories.

Who Created Dogs Playing Poker?

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge created 18 paintings in the Dogs Playing Poker series; out of them, “A Friend In Need” turned out to be the most popular one. 

Overall, the painting gained its popularity with time, not instinctively when it was released in the public domain. 

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The artist faced criticism and hatred for representing dogs in human forms, but eventually, people learned the truth behind the creation of this famous dog art.

Today, we’ll understand why Dogs Playing Poker paintings are famous, and what the artist’s thought process was while creating it. 

And if you’re already familiar with it, and want nothing its replica to upgrade the look of your wall, look no further than this Dogs Playing Poker Replica.

First, let’s see who the creator of Dogs Playing Poker was.

Who Was Cassius Marcellus Coolidge?

Dog playing poker painter Cassius Marcellus Coolidge
Image: historia-arte

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge was an American painter who created the original “Dogs Playing Poker” painting series. 

He has worked in various fields, including medicine, newspaper, banking, and art. 

Born in 1844 in America, Cassius began his art career during the 1860s, when he started taking up gigs such as drawing cartoons for newspapers. Cassius would usually produce humorous drawings and paintings. After moving to Rochester, New York, he began painting dogs based on real-life events. 

As his passion grew, his involvement in art flourished dramatically, resulting in the formation of the famous dog artworks, the Dogs Playing Poker series.

(Also Read: Rothko’s No. 61: Rust & Blue)

Significance and History

Now that you know who its artist was, let’s briefly understand the significance and history of Dogs Playing Poker.

The Dogs Playing Poker painting series was highly inspired by Michelangelo’s paintings and the works of Cubist painter, Paul Cezanne.

They were actually commissioned by the advertising firm Brown & Bigelow to promote cigars.

Michelangelo and Paul Cezanne
Image: Wikipedia

Although the earliest paintings of “Dogs Playing Poker” were made in the 1870s, they were still regarded as commission work.  

When the artist signed a contract with Brown & Bigelow, his works came into the limelight, and people began recognizing dog art.  

Although he didn’t have formal training or education in art, his composition and background triggered a particular audience, which drew some negative attention, which eventually turned into praise and a positive review. 

The painter was known for his surreal paintings, and nobody ever thought that he’d create 18 sketches of dogs that the world would never forget. Dogs Playing Poker is a classic example of modern kitsch artwork. Which is why its features, styles, and colors were difficult to comprehend.

modern kitsch artwork.
Image: artincontext

Let’s analyze the composition of Dogs Playing Poker and learn how the colors and designs were made. 

Composition & Analysis

In the Dogs Playing Poker painting, you’ll see canines portrayed in human forms, in a more satirical manner. 

However, there is indifference to the numbers when you compare all the paintings to each other. 

Taking the famous Dogs Playing Poker into account, we’ve deciphered the hidden message in this Cassius artwork (A Friend In Need). 

Firstly, all seven dogs are shown clamping cards under the lamp’s light, each one of them waiting for their turn.

Dogs are in different postures, which symbolize men from the middle and working classes. 

As you can see, the dogs have a human touch, and they are leisurely enjoying the game of poker. 

Humorous, satirical, and uncanny are the best adjectives to describe this dog artwork by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.

The artist composed the dog painting in such a way that it somewhat degraded men’s characters who indulged in gambling. 

When it comes to its history, the United States has been hard hit by unemployment, racial violence, and scams at that point. 

And the portrayal was inspired by a number of these real-life events. 

In the art, two dogs cheat while playing the game of poker. Even in “His Station and Four Aces,” another painting in Dogs Playing Poker, you’ll find a depiction of a bus conductor catching dogs who are traveling without tickets.

What Does “A Friend in Need” Painting Mean?

Speaking about Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, A Friend in Need (1903), the painting shows four St. Bernard dogs, a bulldog, a Great Dane, and a collie involved in a game of cards. 

A collie leans backward and is more cautious than other dog breeds. 

A gray bulldog who is smoking a cigar is looking at the collie, who is trying hard to block the view of the cards. 

If you look closely, you’ll see the Great Dane showing his card to St. Bernard, who is on his right. The artist is particularly trying to emphasize the cheating that is taking place at the poker table.

a friend in need
Image: Wikipedia

The other two St. Bernard dogs, with chains around their necks, look decent and fair. 

Its background as well as the foreground show the artist’s incredible knowledge and research on the painting.

It was a painting commissioned by an advertising firm, and it was prohibited to advertise harmful goods like beer and cigars. The artist made sure to convey the essence without being obvious. The same was skillfully and subtly incorporated. 

If you look at the background, you’ll see a clock pointing at 2, trying to add a deeper meaning to the painting.

a friend in need
Image: Wikipedia

Poker is a game that is mostly played by men at night. The time that is shown in the clock indicates that the visuals aren’t meant for children. 2 a.m. is the time when most kids are asleep, and it’s safe to advertise injurious products like cigars.

This famous dog painting made sure it justified its nuances. But was it able to pull its weight when it came to its popularity, influence, and recognition in the public domain?

(Suggested: 12 Surrealist Paintings That Inspire The Artists Of The 21st Century!)


The “Dogs Playing Poker” painting has become more popular lately than ever. 

Its appearance in shows like Courage the Cowardly Dog and sitcoms like Roseanne made it popular in US pop culture.

Even in some parts of America, interior designers suggest incorporating Dogs Playing Poker murals into their client’s homes.

Dogs playing poker may not be a serious piece of work, like other famous paintings. However, “A Friend in Need,” has still remained the most expensive artwork to be sold in the series. It was sold to an undisclosed person for a whopping amount of $658,000. 

The second most expensive painting from the Dogs Playing Poker series is “A Bold Bluff” followed by “Waterloo”.

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Interestingly, “Dogs Playing Poker” wasn’t even considered art because of its trivial and funny nature; however, things changed with time, and it has finally gotten its due attention.

Dogs Playing Poker paintings may be worth thousands of dollars. But in its early years, it was considered a failed art that held little value.       

Art critics and collectors may have mocked the series of Dog Playing Poker for their own benefit, but these dog paintings shall always remain the most iconic paintings of the United States.    

And you can even hang the exact piece in your bedroom or living room. 

Just click on the reproduction painting to have any famous art’ replica made by the experts. 


The influence of Dogs Playing Poker on younger or aspiring artists was profound. It is evident in Snoop Dogg’s album “Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre: Who Am I,” in which the painting is mounted behind the rapper.

It appeared on the screen for over 10 seconds in three different scenes. But it creates a lasting impact as it goes well with the theme and lyrics of the song. 

dogs playing poker painting in snoop dog album
Image: YouTube

Despite not seeing recognition in its early days, this dog poker painting later gained attention and love from across the world.

Apart from that, the other Dogs Playing Poker paintings appeared in a movie, a music album, and even a cartoon show. 

You can see a playful and humorous glimpse of it in The Simpsons too. 

Its influence can also be seen in various realms or ways because of its growing popularity.

The Cheat With the Ace of Diamonds
Image: Wikiart

When Cassius was working on Dogs Playing Poker, he took some inspiration from various artists’ works, mainly The Cheat With the Ace of Diamonds, a painting from the Louvre Museum.

In A Friend in Need, you’ll clearly see the Great Dane cheating on everyone and trying to outsmart them with foul practices. 

A poker game was the same element of the series as cheating and dishonesty, the primary emotions evoked in the famous dog paintings. 

The Dogs Playing Poker Series

Let’s see their titles:

  1. The Poker Game (1894) 
  2. A Bachelor’s Dog 
  3. A Bold Bluff 
  4. A Waterloo 
  5. A Friend In Need 
  6. The Reunion 
  7. His Station and Four Aces 
  8. New Year’s Eve In Dogsville 
  9. One To Tie, Two To Win
  10. Pinched With Four Aces 
  11. Poker Sympathy 
  12. Post Mortem 
  13. Riding the Goat 
  14. Sitting Up With a Sick Friend 
  15. Stranger In Camp 
  16. Ten Miles To a Garage 
  17. Breach of Promise Suit (c. 1909 – 1910) 
  18. Looks Like Four of a Kind (1910)

The Popularity of the CM Coolidge Series

A Friend in Need is the most popular and valuable painting of “Dogs Playing Poker.” Which was the fifth of the 18 paintings in this series. 

The painting was solely responsible for stealing the thunder from other paintings in the same series. 

1. The Poker Game

famous dog painting The Poker Game
Image: tallengestore

It is also known as Coolidge’s 1894 poker game.

There are St. Bernard Dogs around the table; the one who is shown in a standing position is peeking into the card clamped by the dog, who looks stressed and lost.

As the cheating is vividly displayed and the artist also adds contradictory elements to it, cigars are also being promoted.

The painting was made in 1894 and received a decent reception from art critics. 

2. A Bachelor Dog

famous dog painting A Bachelor Dog
Image: dogsplayingpoker

There aren’t any dogs playing poker games, as that is the main element.

The artist tried to craft a bachelor’s life as the dog was seen smoking a cigar and downing some whiskey.

The scenario shows how careless and worry less the dog has become.

It is created to show dogs playing card games in a very careless and worry-less manner, which can take them to bad places.

This Dogs Playing Poker painting was created between 1909 and 1910. 

3. A Bold Bluff

famous dog painting A Bold Bluff
Image: dogsplayingpoker

There are five dog breeds seated around the poker table, where the four canines—a bulldog, a Great Dane, a collie, and a Mastador—were shown staring at the St. Bernard dog, who is clamping a cigar, and partially gazing at a Great Dane.

The bulldog playing poker painting symbolizes fear, anxiety, and unpredictability. It’s the first painting in a series of two, the other being Waterloo. 

4. Waterloo

famous dog painting Waterloo
Image: dogsplayingpoker

Waterloo is the last in the series, which reveals the climax.

In the first painting, the spotlight was on St. Bernard, as the rest of the dogs were waiting for him to show his cards.

In this dog-playing poker painting, the suspense is revealed and shows St. Bernard winning the coins.

Bulldog, a Great Dane, a collie, and a Mustard are in utter shock and startled to see his St Bernard dues.

St. Bernard dropped the cards while collecting the winning coins, where whiskey was spilled and cigars were dropped.

These paintings are two sides of one coin, in which the facial expressions of dogs reveal these Dogs Playing Poker meanings.

Over the years, many artists have created their own interpretations of the painting. However, one has never been close to the intricacies of this original dog painting.

In 2005, both original paintings were sold to an undisclosed buyer for a whopping sum of US $590,400.

5. His Station and Four Aces 

famous dog painting His Station and Four Aces
Image: randomservices

This is the seventh painting in the Dogs Playing Poker picture/painting series, in which the artist created a scenario of passengers on the train, where the one who is clamping the cards is in shock and horror.

The reason was his disembarkation, as the conductor appeared and informed him and other passengers to deboard the train.

Dog Painting was created in 1903.

This is the fifth popular Dog Playing Poker painting after A Friend in Need, The Poker Game, A Bold Bluff, and A Waterloo.


It wouldn’t have been possible if some of his artwork hadn’t appeared in several auctions. 

Some made thousands of dollars, while others were never seen publicly, thus never garnering attention or generating valuation. 

Cassius was supremely talented, which can evidently be seen in his art. His mindset, painting skills, and market knowledge helped him present the product beautifully and seamlessly in front of the audience. 

Dogs Playing Poker received criticism, but it dramatically helped the advertising firm that was commissioning it. 

Author’s Note

Thanks for reading my blog “Dogs Playing Poker” 😀

I’ve collected data, information, and facts from various reliable sources, and filtered them out to provide you with the best result on Dogs Playing Poker.

So let me know how you feel after reading this; you can leave some suggestions below if you have any.

We’ll respond to you as soon as we can.

As it’s the most popular painting related to dogs, you can also think of buying a replica; perhaps, a replica of your favorite artist’s work.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the creator of Dogs Playing Poker painting series?

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge produced 18 paintings in a series called Dogs Playing Poker.

What is the most famous painting in Dogs Playing Poker?

“A Friend In Need” is the most famous painting in Dogs Playing Poker.

Why is Dogs Playing Poker painting famous?

Dogs Playing Poker painting series is famous because of its depiction, art style, and message. Dogs are being portrayed in human forms to spread a deeper message to society.

When was A Friend In Need created?

A Friend In Need was created in 1903, which featured seven dog breeds, including four St. Bernard dogs, a bulldog, a Great Dane, and a collie involved in a game of cards.

What is the price of original A Friend In Need?

If the painting were ever be on a sale, it would be worth whopping $658,000

Which album featured Dogs Playing Poker?

Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre: Who Am I, has a glimpse of Dogs Playing Poker.

2 thoughts on “Dogs Playing Poker: Disastrous Or The Most Successful Dog Art?

  1. Jess says:

    Hi there. I have a framed lithograph, I believe. Wood frame with cigarette and other symbols on the frame along with Red Seal. The backing is solid, the paper torn as it’s very old. Nails intact, Frame and glass in perfect condition. Signed bottom left. What would this be worth?

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