Home » Cards and Dice » What is the Dead Man’s Hand in Poker?

What is the Dead Man’s Hand in Poker?

Poker is arguably the world’s most popular card game! But while this card game is one of the most well-known, it can be tricky to learn. There are many terminologies, with one of the most confusing terms being the Dead Man’s Hand.

Let’s take a look at this term to find out what it means.

What is the Dead Man’s Hand in Poker?

While it’s sometimes called an Aces and Eights, the most common name is the Dead Man’s Hand. It’s four cards, a pair of aces and a pair of eights. While the hand is often considered bad luck, it’s quite a good hand in most Poker games.

Now, as I’m sure most Poker players know, you usually get five cards in a hand. But in Dead Man’s Hand, the fifth card doesn’t matter. Like many things involving playing cards, the history and origin behind the term is a bit of a mystery.

The Story Behind The Dead Man’s Hand

The supposed legend behind the Dead Man’s Hand is that these four cards were being held by Wild Bill Hickok. Wild Bill was actually called James Butler Hickok, a well-known folk hero of the American Old West.

The man held many positions in his life, including that of a soldier, scout, and lawman. It is also believed that he told many outlandish stories about himself, which led to him getting a very notorious reputation.

How many of the stories were true? We can’t say for sure, but how does this relate to the Dead Man’s Hand. Well, these were the cards he held when he was gunned down in a Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Interestingly it was five-card stud (which is similar to 7 Card Stud) he was playing, not traditional Poker. The legend also states that all the cards held by Wild Bill were black cards adding to the ominous nature. These four cards often show up in TV shows and movies to symbolize impending misfortune.

The TV show Deadwood, which featured Wild Bill himself as a character, used the cards several times. Many novice Poker players incorrectly believe the cards to be of low value because of their reputation and name. But this isn’t quite the case, and two pairs is a pretty decent hand.

So, that’s the exciting and colorful story of the Dead Man’s Hand! So, don’t panic the next time you get it unless you’re in a Wild West saloon, of course.

About Bar Games 101

Bar Games 101 is a website devoted to helping you learn about the best games to play with your friends. We review the games, research the rules, and uncover helpful tips and strategies.

Get our free guide to the 50 Best Bar Games.