Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dead Man's Hand

Art Prints

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The make up of poker's dead man's hand has varied through the years. Currently, the dead man's hand is described as a two-pair poker hand consisting of black aces and eights. Along with an unknown "hold" card, these were the cards reportedly held by "Old West" folk hero, lawman and gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok, when he was assassinated.
What is considered the dead man's hand card combination of today gets its notoriety from a legend that it was the five-card-draw hand held by James Butler Hickok (better known as "Wild Bill" Hickok) when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876, in Nuttal & Mann's Saloon at Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Reportedly, Hickok's final hand included the aces and eights of both black suits. One Hickok biographer, Joseph Rosa, put it: "the accepted version is that the cards were the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, two black eights (clubs and spades), and the queen of clubs as the 'kicker'." However, Rosa said no contemporary source for this exact hand can be found. The solidification in gamers parlance of the dead man's hand as two pair, "aces and eights", didn't come about until after the 1926 publication of Frank Wilstach's book, "Wild Bill Hickok: The Prince of Pistoleers"  50 years after Hickok's death.