Dead Man’s Hand Explained

Perhaps one of the most iconic poker hands to have ever existed, “Dead Man’s Hand” is known throughout the world via its use in a number of movies and TV programs, as well as the legendary stories to have been told.

This article will take a look at the history of Dead Man’s Hand and provide a brief overall about how it came to be known what it is today and how it continues to fit into poker today.

How did Dead Man’s Hand come about?

For those that do not know the story, ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ is the tale of the poker hand that “Wild Bill” Hickok was holding during a game of 5-card poker when he was shot in the back of the head and instantly killed at the table he was playing at by an individual called Jack McCall.

The hand that he was holding at the time of his murder was a Two Pair: Aces and Eights. This hand was would have been extremely strong in the game that they were playing and would have likely won him the game if he had not been shot before it finished.

Why is Dead Man’s Hand so famous?

As mentioned, there have been a number of adaptations of the story featuring Hicock and his poker hand, which has seen the tale continue to be told and become as famous as it is. For instance, one reason that it has become as famous as it is is because of the people involved.

Hickok was considered to be one of the most iconic American heroes of the Old West, as he was a former soldier, scout and lawman. He was also an actor and a showman, with some comparing him to the modern-day James Bond’s of the world.

Hickok is also understood to have been able to have shot and killed a plethora of outlaws during his time in the Old West, which is why his death in 1876 in the town of Deadwood (South Dakota today) became a history legend most will know.

Additionally, another reason why Dead Man’s Hand is so famous is the fact that the Wild West is thought to have created the original poker games, so there is an instant association between the two that can be derived.

How does Dead Man’s Hand fit into Poker?

The hand of an Ace and an Eight in games of poker is traditionally considered to be rather strong, which is why there is a number of suggestions being floated around that suggest Hickok would have won the game he was playing in if he were not shot at the table.

However, there are poker variants, such as Texas Hold’em, that can make this hand appear one that can be a little concerning as there is the possibility of it being a huge success or a huge flop. It, by no means, is a guaranteed winner.


The story of the Dead Man’s Hand is known throughout the world but it is an interesting one that is always great to read about and be aware of.

If you pick up an Ace and an Eight when playing Texas Hold’em, then you might want to think about what you want to do, as you could be a dead man sitting in wait at the poker table.