The dead man’s hand in poker is a combination of two pairs of cards: a pair of eights and a pair of aces. It is called like this because of a long-standing poker legend that almost all people who like this game know.
The origin story of the Dead Man’s Hand
Legendary events that are still remembered took place in the Wild West in the town of Deadwood. The legend tells us about the famous poker player and shooter William Hickok and about his tragic death in particular. So, in 1876, August 2, he came to enjoy his favorite game – poker – in one of the saloons he visited frequently. He loved it a lot, so he even had a favorite table in that saloon. William had a tradition – he always sat with his back against the wall, as he was afraid that someone would kill or attack him from behind. Well, this actually happened. On the last day of William’s life, another player occupied his place. So, he had nothing to choose from and selected another place (with his back to the door). Having no other variants, he did that.
Several hours later, another man came to the saloon. It was Jack McColl, who had a revolver in his hand. He was the one to kill William. Several seconds after he entered, he fired 2 shots in William’s head.
The reason for the murder of William is not known. For now, the only thing we know from official documents is that Jack killed him due to revenge. Besides, several days before this murder, Jack joined a poker table with Hickok and ended up losing every single dime. Hickok supported him, but it made Jack even more furious and insulted. They say that earlier William also killed Jack’s brother. However, a few years later, it was revealed that Jack never had brothers. Therefore, we still don’t know the exact reason for those events.
It is worth mentioning that at the time of his death, William had two eights and two aces. That’s why such cards are called a dead man’s hand poker.
Everyone remembers aces and eights in Bill’s hands, but no one exactly remembers another – a kicker. There are many different opinions about it. Joseph Ros suggests that the kicker was Valet or Dame. Others say that Bill dropped the fifth card and did not have time to get another one before the murder. There is also a version that he had nine or five.
Other Dead Man’s Hands
In many years, another Dead Man’s Hand became famous. It was a combination of a full house of three Valets and two Tens. The person who had that cards was also shot dead at the time of the game. However, this combination is not as well known as the first Dead Hand, which still remains the legend. Deadman money-making – that’s what all poker players passionate about this legend are looking for.
Dead Man’s Hand in culture
Many artists used a Dead Man’s Hand legend as a source of inspiration. Thus, nowadays there are many Dead Man’s Hand films and songs. This legend is used in literature as well. For example, James Patterson uses it in Along Came a Spider. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, one of Ken Kesey’s characters has a Dead Man’s Hand tattoo on his shoulder. Besides, many poker fans also choose the Dead Man’s Hand tattoo, as well as the dead dimes tattoo, to show appreciation to old legends. Romantic, adrenaline, and doom – everything is combined in old poker stories.
As we have previously mentioned, the Dead Man’s Hand story was also used in cinematograph. So, John Ford used it as a prophet of doom. It was used in various TV shows as well. As a rule, it is used to underline imminent death. In video games, this legendary hand is used as well (Fallout: New Vegas, Doomtown). The number of references in music is also impressive.
So, now you know everything about this legend. We hope it was interesting for you to get to know a little bit more about one of the most well-known legends connected with poker.
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