On Point With: Butch Cordora

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You know you wanna dive in the tank with this card shark. He’s been a boss at the poker table in Boxers PHL for a few years, and has now swam into HK waters. A bona fide TV star in Philadelphia who also produced and starred in a doc about the making of an all-nude calendar with straight guys, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a big fish in the NYC pond as well. You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to run to Butch Cordora!


Thotyssey: Hey there, Butch! How are you today in this post Valentines-universe?

Butch Cordora: Luckily, Tuesdays for me are a shitshow. It’s my busiest day of the week at my day job; also, I run my biggest poker night of the week on Tuesdays as well. So, not really any time to think about how single I am!

Ain’t nobody got time for that! So, you’re a two-city man, Philly & NYC. We’ll get Do you ever forget where you are sometimes? Like, you wanna go grab lunch at a certain place but then remember that you’re in the wrong city?

Hahaha! Not really at that point yet, but I think it’s coming soon! Also, when you’re in NYC, how can anyone think they’re in any other city but NYC; it’s so distinct.

That’s true! Are you a native Philadelphian?

I’m originally from the Scranton/Poconos area, but I escaped right after high school and have been in Philly since ‘87! So I sorta tell people I’m a native.

Close enough! What’s great about Philly for you?

The whole “small town in a big city” vibe, I suppose? The notion that you can have a small backyard, a car, a couple pets, etc–and function almost like you live in a small town–is pretty enticing. I couldn’t imagine having and owning all those things in NY.

Ah, owning stuff, such a pipe dream! What were you into early on–did you wanna be a performer in some fashion?

Yeah… I’ll try ‘n make it Readers Digest version! Took acting classes in the 90’s.. got a lot of “extra” work on movies being shot in Philly. The tiniest success in theater as well– until I kind of decided that I wasn’t that good of an actor.

But I knew I had a voice; something to say, so I worked towards executing a TV talk show on public access down here. And that, I succeeded with. It was called In Bed with Butch and ran for 10 seasons (1999 to 2009) until I sort of got bored w/that.

My interest then turned towards film: I made a handful of short films, then finally (in 2010) made my first feature documentary called Straight & Butch. It was moderately received. Since then, I haven’t found a subject or topic I’m passionate enough about to make a second doc.

In Bed With Butch was a talk show, and I see you had tons of guests during its long run.  It must have been thrilling for awhile, to be able to share all these people’s stories. How did you know it was time to stop ultimately?

When I pitched the idea to the TV station in 1998, it was so radical to have a talk show with an openly gay host, that they said yes immediately! When I look back at that whole decade–the double zero’s–I lovingly call it the Will & Grace era. as in, everybody was pushing the gay agenda down your throat. It was the era of Queer as Folk, The L Word, W & G and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few more.

By 2009, the gay agenda shifted: it was no big deal anymore that I had a gay talk show, and it stopped feeling special to me. And quite frankly, if I had to interview one more drag queen, I was gonna slit my wrists!

I wouldn’t know anything about that! And this documentary you made, it was about your efforts to create a calendar where you posed nude with twelve straight men. What was that experience like… and how the hell did you find those guys?

It was an awesome experience! To this day, the best, funnest, most creative thing I’ve done professionally. Those straight guys? well, yeah, I mean it was just everywhere. The dude at Starbucks, my gym, Whole Foods, my “straight girl” friends who talked their husbands into doing it… my mailman [laughs]! The dude who works on my car… just every fucking place imaginable! I’m pretty persuasive, but also I’ve been told that I’m sort of a non-threatening gay guy. So that puts them at ease..

So, when did you become associated with Boxers PHL, i.e. the Philly branch of the popular gay sports bar franchise?

I ran one poker game back in 2005, for shits and giggles, at Sisters (Philly’s only lesbian bar). It ran for three years, then I ended it to work on the movie.

So cut to 2014, and one of the Boxers manager’s boyfriends remembered me and my poker game, and when they were having their first big meeting about nightly events and gigs this guy said  “Hey, let’s reach out to Butch and see if he’ll run a weekly game.” So they did: we met up  and I got hired, Thanksgiving weekend 2014.

Nice! Would you consider yourself a master card shark?

Well, yeah, I am a pretty good card player, yes. Poker being the strongest.

What kind of people make the best poker players? Is it about bluffing, risk-taking, being cautious… or is there no real formula?

There’s two trains of thought on this: the first being that playing cards–poker more specifically–is about body language, facial movements, bluffing, and on and on. I forget which professional poker player said this, but the first sentence in their book reads “Poker is about everything but the cards.”

The other train of thought is the one I subscribe to. Poker is a perfect game. In other words, there’s simply no need to bluff or look at anyone’s body language, facial expressions, etc.. just play your damn cards! If they’re good, you’ll win… if they’re not, just fold. It’s as simple as that. But, both have their redeeming qualities, I suppose

You host the weekly Texas Hold ‘Em tournament in Boxers PHL on Tuesdays, and now you’re hosting it at Boxers HK here in New York, Saturdays at 7! Who generally coming to these tournaments: seasoned players, or newbies learning the basics?

Since the laws just changed around 2012 in NYC in regards to playing cards in bars, it’s still sort of a new phenomenon in Manhattan. Therefore, yes, I do get a whole lot of people who are so shocked this is happening–so intrigued by the whole poker thing that I end up having a full table teaching six or seven people how to play.

Then there’ll be a “real” table playing the actual game. The idea is to build this night into a huge tournament; the kind I have in Philly where 25 to 30 people show.

I actually didn’t know that there ever was a law against just play cards in bars… even if money/gambling wasn’t involved?

Yep! No cards or dice in bars. Period! They don’t care if you’re raising money for cancer of whatever. It’s just one of those leftover Giuliani things, I would imagine.

One funny story is, believe it or not, in ’08 I got hired at Splash (of all places)! I drove up for a meeting, met with the managers. The talk went great, I got hired, was gonna do Wednesdays downstairs. I was soooo excited! Two days before my first game, they called and said “legal” was stopping it. Their lawyers found out you couldn’t do bar poker.

Now they’re all over Brooklyn and New York… but mostly in scrappy Irish bars in Alphabet City. I just sort of pride myself on being the “gay poker dude”. [laughs]. Like, that’s my niche!

Werk! And not to make everything about sex, but when a game is going strong… it is kinda sexy sometimes, right? I bet a lot of relationships begin at the poker table… or at least one night stands.

Yep, that’s true.. I always said, there’s nothing sexier than a guy who knows how to play poker! It’s definitely an aphrodisiac for sure. And yeah, I’ve had some very hot one night stands following poker. You know, “I slept with the tournament director” kinda thing.

More then one way to play “Hold Em!” And you can win actual non-sexy prizes these nights as well, right?

Yep! Always free to play, but that being said there are prizes to win. First place gets a $30 gift certificate to Boxers, second receives $20 and third, $10. Also, fourth place gets a free drink. So it’s not just, “oh well, lets just play poker for fun.” There is something at stake, and players take is relatively seriously.

I can imagine! Okay, sounds like a lot of fun… and it’s early in the evening so you have the rest of the night to be thotty afterwards! Speaking of which, how are you liking the bar boys at Boxers HK? Besides being hot, I think they’re such sweet guys.

Absolutely! That was the one thing I didn’t expect, for sure! I mean, why be nice if you’re hot [laughs], just kidding!

I especially love my poker bartender, Eli! Sweet, funny, and he comes in two hours earlier than his shift to bartend downstairs and help get this night going. Nick is pretty awesome too. Super friendly, sarcastic and funny. He’s upstairs during the day on Saturdays.

I love Boxers both here in Philly and the HK location. They treat me great, and are extremely professional in every way. And I would love to continue as long as I can w/the organization.

Okay, last question: Do you think Trump would make a good poker player?

OMG!!! You are hysterical! That would be a big fat N to the O! He wears his emotions on his sleeve, he’s so thin-skinned and any tiny fly in the ointment shakes and rattles him visibly. The experts say “One half of being a great poker player is patience.” Which, as we all know, he lacks enormously..

I would love the chance to beat him towards a $30 gift certificate one of these nights! Thanks Butch, see you at the tables!


Butch Cordora hosts “Bluffin’ W/ Butch,” a weekly Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, at Boxers PHL (Tuesdays at 8m) and Boxers HK (Saturdays at 7pm). He can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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