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Poker gods

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER

Countless marital spats between newlyweds likely start with the bride suggesting they "hang" the husband's painting of dogs playing poker in the garbage.

Unless Paul Taravella's bluffing, his painting may cause even more disputes.

Taravella [right], a local poker player, commissioned painter George Molstad [left] to update C.M. Coolidge's barroom classic with a painting of World Poker Tour players as gods. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson is turning water to wine. Phil "Unabomber" Laak is the devil. Phil Hellmuth is Zeus, about to rain lightning on Greg "Fossilman" Raymer; as Buddha, Raymer is accepting a card from a Shiva inspired by Annie Duke.

That card-passing is directly inspired by the famous dog painting. But ultimately, "you can read interpretations into it," says Taravella, who is pictured as the dealer.

Molstad rendered the image with gouache, a technique blending opaque watercolors with a preparation of gum. And Taravella, who chose Molstad for his ability to paint with "picture-like quality," hopes to print posters to be sold at retailers like Wal-Mart and Spencer Gifts.

Taravella has yet to name the painting, but is considering calling it "After all, dog spelled backwards is god" or "If it wasn't for miracles, I'd win them all," which paraphrases a Hellmuth quote.

Taravella, a who took fourth at a poker tournament last week at the Thirsty Parrot, hopes this painting is the first in a series of three.

Molstad, for the record, is not so interested in poker.

"I've been trying to get someone to explain Texas roll 'em," he says. "I switched from poker to bridge a long time ago."

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