What Is The Dead Man’s Hand?

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What is a dead man’s hand?

A dead man’s hand is a hand combination in poker that is varied through time. This hand combination came to be called a dead man’s hands after a very peculiar incident. This name comes from a very old tale of the murder of lawman and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok who held a certain hand combination when he was killed. To this day, there is no concrete source that can tell us the exact 5 card hand combination that Wild Bill Hickok held when he was killed. All that is known about that 5 card hand combination is that it contained a 2 pair. The 5 card hand combination that he held when he was killed came to be known as the Dead man’s hand.

The dead man’s hand has been referred to multiple times in the 19th and the 20th century but was not linked back to Wild Bill Hickok until the early 1920s. The dead man’s hand has had many different combinations that have been changed throughout history. For example, in the year 1885, the dead man’s hand consisted of a full house consisting of three jacks and a pair of 10s; in the year 1903, it consisted of a two pair of jacks and 7s and in the year in the year 1907, it consisted of a 2 pair of jacks and 8s. As of today, the dead man’s hand consists of a two pair of black aces and black 8s.

This particular hand is considered to be a very unlucky hand combination to hold in poker. The legend behind it justifies this statement. As mentioned above, Wild Bill Hickok was murdered while holding this hand combination and playing poker. That is partly the reason that this hand is known to be a very unlucky hand combination. In the year 1876, on August 2, Wild Bill Hickok was playing against a drunk who went by the name of Jack ‘Crooked Nose’ McCall. McCall lost almost every game against Hickok and eventually ran out of money to play. After noticing this, Hickok gave McCall money to buy himself food. This act of Hickok’s insulted McCall to his very soul. The next day McCall saw Hickok playing poker again and in a fit of rage ended up shooting him in the back of his head. This legend is what makes the dead man’s hand appear to be so unlucky.

Can it be used to win a game of poker?

If we look at how the dead man’s hand is made, it can be used to win, if played properly. A dead man’s hand consists of a two-pair, which in a lot of cases, is a very good hand. Although it is not as good as a royal flush or a straight, it is still a very good hand to play with. Contrary to popular belief, holding this hand combination does not change the outcome of your game. Just because you hold a dead man’s hand does not mean that you are fated to lose the game. As a matter of fact, the LAPD, Los Angeles Police Department CRASH Squad along with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner bear the dead man’s hand as this insignia.

Pop-Culture references of the Dead Man’s hand

When it comes to talking about popular culture, there are many references that have been made to the dead man’s hand, mostly when talking about or trying to portray impending doom. Along Came A Spider, a book written by the author James Patterson, used the dead man’s hand as a reference. In this book, the protagonist’s father used the dead man’s hand hand combination to win a game of cards. The protagonist uses the dead man’s hand as their computer password as well. Also, in the book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest written by the author, Ken Kesey, the protagonist has the dead man’s hand tattooed on their shoulder. This is a very famous trend, tattooing the dead man’s hand combination on someone’s body. The famous film director, John Ford, uses this hand combination to foreshadow impending doom. A lot of TV series and novels movies, made especially on supernatural and paranormal themes, also use the hand combination to do the same.

A lot of songs also feature the dead man’s hands in their lyrics. These are-

  1. Dead Man’s Hand – Ha Ha Tonka.
  2. Ace Of Spades – Motörhead.
  3. Rambling, Gambling Willie – Bob Dylan.
  4. Aces & Eights – Uncle Kracker.
  5. Alligator Blood – Bring Me the Horizon.
  6. I Am The Storm – Blue Oyster Cult.
  7. Aces & Eights – Michael McDermott.
  8. Dead Man’s Hand – Moonshine Bandits.

These are just some of the examples that use the dead man’s hand in their scripts and lyrics to foreshadow death and show impending doom.

The use of a dead man’s hand is very important in popular culture. People have been using this famous and legendary hand combination to add effect to their work. The use of this hand combination is tattoos, movies, books and tv series is made just to add an ominous theme to the work.

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