Why Aces And Eights Are Called A Dead Man’s Hand

By | March 27, 2019

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Aces and Eights...the Dead Man's Hand. Source: (pixels.com)

One of the appeals to the game of poker—aside from the chance to win big money—is that the game is full of nuances and backstories. One of those has to do with the Dead Man’s Hand. The name for this particular combination of cards, that included the two black aces and the two black eights, dates back to the old west when Wild Bill Hickock was shot at a poker table while holding this hand of cards. Here’s how the story went. 

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LITTLE BIG MAN, the theatrical movie originally released December 23, 1970, featured Jeff Corey as Wild Bill Hickok. Source: (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Who was Wild Bill Hickok?

When it comes to old west characters, Wild Bill was one of the more colorful ones. Although he is considered an American folk hero, he was a real, flesh-and-blood person who just happened to live an adventurous life. Born in Illinois, James Butler Hickok was drawn to the western frontier. At one time or another, Hickok, who acquired the nickname Wild Bill, worked as a lawman, gambler, soldier, wagon master, cattle driver, gunfighter, spy, and actor. He was great at self-promotion, though historians believe that many of the stories associated with him have been greatly exaggerated. He spent time on both sides of the law and found himself the hero of several shoot-outs.