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Dead Man’s Hand

What is ‘Dead Man’s Hand’?

The ‘Dead Man’s Hand is represented by a two pair comprising of a pair of aces and a pair of eights. However, there is more to it than that, for it to be an original Dead Man’s Hand it must be made up of the A♠-A♣-8♠-8♣.

‘Dead Man’s Hand’ Explained

The reason a two pair of aces and eights is known as a Dead Man’s Hand takes us back to the 2nd of August 1876 when drover, wagon master, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot from behind during a poker game by unsuccessful gambler Jack McCall in the rather aptly named Deadwood, South Dakota.

The cards that Wild Bill was supposedly holding at the time of his death was the Ace of Spades, Ace of Clubs, Eight of Spades and Eight of Clubs, hence the name.

“Wild Bill” Hickok lived an adventurous life and prior to his untimely death had fought a dual against David Tutt in a dispute over gambling debts. Hickok won the dual and continued to build on his famous reputation before his murder at the poker table in 1876.

It was reported that Hickok had actually just won the hand with his two pair which may have resulted in his murder, however, no one knows what the fifth card held was and remains a mystery today.

Dead Man’s Hand can be viewed as a curse despite it actually being a strong hand and players are often spooked into ‘watching their backs’ if they hold the hand.
Although a Dead Man’s Hand can be represented by any suit of Ace and eight two pair, there can be no disputing that the original Dead Man’s Hand is made solely of the black suits.