Artist Gone Wild! (Ken Silbert’s outtakes from Painless Poker and Beyond)



This post is comprised of 40 outstanding images, strung together with words, words that will help answer the fundamental questions that these images will raise in your mind, such as, “Is this the work of acid or whiskey?”

And the answer is, neither one! Ken wakes up naturally expanded.

Ken and I discovered full-contact Scrabble together in the ‘80s, and we formed our own little universe of silliness. He called me Tomium. I called him Kenite. Ken moved away, then ten years ago we reconnected via the internet, and we picked up right where we left off with the zaniness and the Scrabble. Except now we amuse each other with emails, and we play Scrabble on our phones.

In 2012, the artist I’d been working with died. Before I called Ken to offer him life-tenure on my team, I knew the conversation would end in rapture. Followed by years of good work and good times.

Painless Poker has 15 images in it, plus the cover. I couldn’t be happier with how they came out. Or with the journey. And now I find myself compelled to share that journey with you, using the works that Ken left scattered about on the cutting room floor. I’ve been picking them up fo

r years, and stashing them in my collection.

(Before I get started, here’s a friendly suggestion: Hire him for something! He too has cats to feed.)


The Playing Cards

I asked Ken to make some playing cards that were square, with rounded corners, and with the least amount of information possible. He took it from there. Painless Poker has two images of playing cards. One in the opening story, and one in the closer. This is the image from the big hand in Chapter 1. The pain is right there to see…

Along the way, Ken produced these next three images: A beautiful queen of spades, an equally stunning eight of diamonds, and then, his majesty: the Kurt of Diamonds.


Scratchy queen of spades



8 of diamonds draft





Here’s something Ken wrote to me:

“I recently read a story about a painter who kept a bouquet of fresh roses in her studio, always, so that when she started feeling too uppity about her talents, she could be reminded of true beauty. I have the opposite problem, so I keep a fresh dog turd on my table, to remind me that the shit I make is nowhere near as stinky.”

Poker Mountain

The Poker Mountain image shows up in a passage about the differences between online poker and live poker. I wanted to show that it’s a smoother grade on the internet side of the mountain. I requested no frills, and a dash of jocularity. And I got it.

And I also got these!




Easter Island Poker Mountain



Etch-a-Sketch Mountai









The Unused Infographic:

How much should I dummy down in this book? Who am I writing for?

For the first five years of this seven year project, those questions were never far away. A glossary didn’t feel right — too heavy handed, and way more than what was needed. So I made plans to include a single-page info-graphic, at the beginning of the book, to help readers who might not know what flop, turn, and river mean, and a few other key words that showed up right away in the book with no explanation.

But hold on, I kept telling myself. Almost every word you’ve ever published was written for poker players. You’ve never pretended to write for anyone else. Why change now? There’s a language of poker. Just speak it, like usual.

Two years ago, I scrapped the infographic idea, and I trimmed out lots of words and phrases that were intended to help a non-poker person navigate the lingo. The reason I am showing you the abandoned infographic is because I want you to see the second image below: the Kenite version. Yes, those are the aliens from the pilot episode of Star Trek, the Original Series. And there’s Captain Pike, dealing. And check out the happy Talosian in seat 5!






The Painless Poker Cover Parade

About a year ago, Ken and I settled on this cover as the final answer:



A few months after that, Ken started work on the drawings of the Painless Poker Clinic that appear in the book. The PPC is the fictional setting in Painless Poker where eight people including me talk for two days. Below is the drawing I sent to Ken. Below that is what came back: two totally different approaches. We chose the funner one and ran with it. The third image below is the clinic drawing that’s in the book.







Now, back to the cover story. 🙂

We had settled on the green cover above, the one with the words “painless poker” tiled all over it.

Then the cone-shaped pendant showed up, first in the clinic drawings, and I liked it so much I wrote it into the story.

And then one day out of nowhere, this shows up in my mailbox:



That image re-opened the book-cover search, with Ken and I skipping merrily down a new path. The old green cover was kicked aside like stale rubbish.

Iterations happened, using regular fonts, for example:


And then another mold-smashing version of the front cover showed up. I didn’t even take it seriously at first. I thought Ken was funning around as usual.



I didn’t even reply to that cover, with its somewhat-brush-stroke somewhat-written-in-blood lettering. Then three days later Ken asked me what I thought of it, which meant he had intended it as an actual contender. In one second my perspective flipped, and I looked at it differently, and before long, we were both liking it, a lot, without entirely being able to analyze why, which was something else we liked.

Tweakage by Ken led to this logo:



And to this cover:




And this concludes the boring part of this story. The exciting part came sooner. Below are ten book covers. The first few were contenders. Then comes the silly time.














Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 10.41.15 PM













PP Cover about Muffins







PP cover4 copy



“The Greatest Book Ever” trailer

What the heck could I do with all those crazy book covers? I know! I’ll make a movie, made up of non-sequitors, starring my famous poker friends, and I’ll mix all the funny books covers into it somehow. And then this happened:

My Life So Far

Three years ago, in 2014, I was thinking about putting a timeline in one of the memoir chapters. It was going to be messy, with overlapping items, and not enough room along a 5-inch X-axis to depict the years in a way that wouldn’t require squinting.

I sent the data to Ken, and this attractive and nifty solution came back, featuring me with my very own mule! (I ended up not putting a timeline in the book.)



Mindfulness Now

I was thinking about the movie Apocalypse Now and I thought of maybe using Mindfulness Now as a title for an article… or book… or maybe as just a poster. Because really, what else is there to say about it?

So I asked Ken to make one. And boy did he.
He added this:
 To this:
 And whipped in some special sauce, and came out with this:



Tincture of Rhubarb

You heard right. Don’t ask questions. Just observe and move on.


PP Tincture



Tommy on Ice





This is the Ken image that thrilled me most upon viewing. I had written an article for PokerNews called Miffed in Montreal in which I tell about playing poker at Casino Montreal for a week, to coach a client who was not allowed into the United States (Another story!). I was dismayed and frustrated at the table, and playing like a chump, because the face cards were in French, with the letters R, D, and V in the corners instead of KQJ.

I asked Ken to make an image to accompany the article that would show the French face cards, with R and D and V in the corners.

And here’s the image that appeared with the article:



Me on Bench

The very last page of Painless Poker is a silhouette of me sitting on my meditation bench. I sent this image to Ken:



And I asked him to work his magic and add a meditation bench to the image, for possible use in the book. Here’s what came back:




And that’s the end. You can write to Ken here: 



ADD Painless Poker TO CART
ADD Painless Poker TO CART


Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 + 1 =