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Poker's Not Just a Straight Pastime, Says Gay Cardsharp Butch Cordora

Poker's Not Just a Straight Pastime, Says Gay Cardsharp Butch Cordora

Butch Cordora

The Philadelphia entrepreneur is creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ players to enjoy the game.

For Butch Cordora, success has always been in the cards.

The gay Philadelphia resident has parlayed his love of poker — in particular, Texas Hold’em — into a successful gig running games and writing books about it.

The author of The Gay Guyde to Poker (2020), he notes that many LGBTQ+ and straight people enjoy the same pastimes, but some, such as poker, are considered the purview of straights. But he wants to make LGBTQ+ people comfortable with the game and give them safe spaces in which to play it.

Cordora learned many poker games while growing up, but he wasn’t introduced to Texas Hold’em until 2005, when some friends asked him to join them in a game in a dive bar in Philadelphia. “I literally have never fallen in love with something so fast,” he says of the game. He played for fun, not for money.

In the aughts, he says, it was possible to find at least three games a night in the city, mostly in straight bars. “I subconsciously thought, Wow, I’m gay and I’m in all these straight bars,” he recalls. “Gay people like everything straight people like, but there are areas that are perceived as heterosexual.”

He set about changing that and decided it would be fun to try running games. He first approached a lesbian bar in Philly, Sisters, about running a game there, and the bar owners took him up on his offer. “Sure enough, it took off,” he said, with Texas Hold’em games at the bar drawing about half lesbians and half gay men.

That was another eye-opener for Cordora. “I found out that I love running poker more than I love playing it,” he says.

He began approaching other bars, such as the Boxers gay sports bars in New York City, and others throughout the Northeast. He’s run games in states including New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware in addition to New York and Pennsylvania. People in all those locations have thanked him for creating a comfortable space for them to enjoy the game.

His games draw some regulars. “We have a 76-year-old lesbian who never misses a game,” he says. “We call her the queen mother of poker.” She’s often tough on new players, but always in a humorous way, he adds. There’s a throuple who come to games two or three times a week, and a lot of 20-something men.

For card games, Cordora limits himself to Texas Hold’em, which he says is the only poker game that lends itself to a large number of players. He also runs billiards and dice games.

He has created a company for his poker enterprise, Bluffin’ With Butch, while continuing to hold his day job as a home health care aide. He runs poker retreat weekends in the summer in New Hope, Pa., and in the winter in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Meanwhile, he’s become an author. He’s found that in largely straight settings, LGBTQ+ players are often perceived as weak, so he wrote The Gay Guyde to Poker to help them, as the subtitle says, “use your minority as a weapon.” The book offers a variety of game tips, and it advises LGBTQ+ players on how to deal with homophobia at the table.

“I believe the best results are accomplished by walking that fine line between standing up for yourself, being slightly provocative or controversial and being fearless about who you are, while still trying to somewhat maintain some level of respect in regards to your playing skills,” he writes. At least that’s what works for him, he notes in the book, but adds, “I fully support any and all scenarios to move the agenda forward.”

He's working on another book now, with the working title Confessions of a Pit Boss, and he’s out to take his work national. He’d love to run games in Los Angeles and Florida, for instance, he says: “I want to run around the country with this.”

To find out if Cordora has a game near you, check out his Facebook and Instagram pages.

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