The Dead Man's Hand

The Dead Man’s Hand: Story And How To Play It?

| December 13, 2023 | How To

The Dead Man’s Hand is probably one of the most famous hands in the history of poker. The bloody history and the man behind that story have made this hand one of the most sought-after hands in poker. Read more to find out why.

The Story Behind It

The Story Behind It

Poker has been around for a good while. In fact, it is one of the most popular as well as infamous games out there. Back in the Old West, the birthplace of the game, Poker has left a bloody trail. People were shot, maimed, and robbed blind for this game.

And Dead Man’s hand is part of that bloody story itself. Even though it is not considered to be one of the best hands, it is still one of the most iconic hands out there.

The story of the Dead Man’s hand dates back to the western saloons of 1800. It is a tale of one man and how he ended up giving poker one of the most iconic hands. Wild Bill Hickok was born in Illinois in 1857. Hickok was a man of several talents.

He was a lawman, gunslinger, gambler, actor, and a local hero. He spent most of his time shooting out with criminals, arresting them, and playing poker. A good ol’ cowboy.

Later on, he moved from Illinois to Deadwood, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This was primarily a mining town that was not a state yet. At this point, Hickok was suffering from glaucoma, and he decided to settle in the local mining town and make a living while playing poker.

The Moment When It Happened

The Moment When It Happened.

On August 2, 1876, Hickok played a Five Card Stud game in a saloon called the Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon. It was your classic Western saloon. Wooden interior, ram’s head, cheap liquor, stench of tobacco, and muted conversation of people eyeing to make a fortune. As the game was going on, a young man named Jack McCall entered the saloon.

Apparently, McCall entered the room in his smooth and suave manner. He went straight to the bar and asked for some ‘liquid courage’. Barman obliged and gave him a drink. McCall took a swig of his drink. He then made his way to the table where Bill was playing. He stood behind Bill, took out his iron, steadied his aim, and shot Bill at the back of his head.

Nobody knows what made McCall commit such an atrocious crime. People present their own version of the story. But the rumor was that McCall owed Bill some money. Therefore he decided to kill Bill to exempt himself from paying the debt.

However, the important part is the hand Bill was holding at the time of his death. Bill was holding two black Aces and two black 8s.

This is a good hand but not a great hand. However, from that point onward, the hand attained a cult classic status and became one of the most sought-after hands out there. Many people believed that this hand was jinxed and it meant that the player might die. As a result, the infamy of the hand grew tenfold.

Pop Culture References

Pop Culture References

The Dead Man’s hand is not just a poker hand, it is a cult classic moment in history. The story of the poker hand and the man who played it, Wild Bill Hickok, have become urban legends in their own right. Hickok was not some random lawman. He was a local legend, hunter, gunslinger, spy, soldier, sharpshooter, and military scout. He was something. And Hollywood has used his pre-established status to build an aura around this man.

According to famous General George Custer, “Whether on foot or on horseback, he(Hickok) was one of the most perfect types of physical manhood I ever saw. His skill in the use of a rifle and pistol was unerring.

He ticked all the boxes of being the perfect kind of man. In fact, several films and novels were dedicated to this man. In fact, Clint Eastwood’s character from his cowboy trilogy was based on this man.

The most recent nod to this character comes from the Rockstar Games’ famous Western video game named Red Dead Redemption 2. The hero, Arthur Morgan, is somebody who shares a lot of resemblance with this old Wild Bill Hickok.  

How To Play The Hand?

When you are playing a game of Texas Hold’em Poker, an Ace-Eight or Dead man’s hand is a good hand to play. There is no set rule on how to play the game. A player chooses how he wants to play the game. Some players would like to make a call or raise stakes if there are no callers. While other players might see this hand as a liability.

Subsequently, when there is a raise in front of the player, most players would prefer folding their hands. Meanwhile, playing this hand after flop can also leave you guys exposed. As a result, players might feel overwhelmed while playing this hand.

However, dynamics change when you are playing a short-handed table. In such situations, this hand becomes valuable. This is a great risk on all hands. Therefore, if you can feel that victory is at hand and will only take a small risk, this is a great hand to play.

An A-A-8-8 hand in five Card Stud is one of the most valued hands. Therefore, it should only be used when things look very grim or victory is close at hand. Other than that, the card can choke out your game and can subject you to a loss.

Closing Thought

That was all for the day. A dead Man’s Hand might not be a great hand to play. Bit it is certainly one of the most iconic hands in the game. Now that you know all about this amazing hand, let us know what you want us to feature more. And keep following our page for more such content.

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samik ghoshal
samik ghoshal

Samik has been a literature student all along and uses his fluidity to write about multi-niche topics. Aspiring to be a professional writer, he tries to analyze his topic from a critical standpoint but still adds a hint of personal perspective to the end product. Being a person having a general inclination toward global politics and documentary filmmaking, he also wishes to write and document more about numerous conflicts that are brewing in the different corners of the globe.


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