Will the Real Dead Man's Hand Please Stand Up...?

January 9, 2018

 I’m a fisherman. Yes, that makes me a poker player and a fisherman. That pretty much means I am filled with about a million stories about hands I won and lost and fish I caught and lost. The sturgeon that got away was bigger than any fish anyone I’ve ever known has ever caught; and I once played Texas Hold’em with Marlon Brando at a poker room in Houston.

 

Am I telling the truth or am I bluffing?

 

Well, one of the two things I wrote was true.

 

Poker’s that way, though. Sit down at a poker table in a room in Houston and you’ll meet people from all walks of life who can tell you stories about the game that will keep you entertained whether or not you find the story completely believable.

 

The other day at the Hangar Poker House, we saw the Dead Man’s Hand. It’s about the most famous hand in poker, and I can’t really recall a time it’s been turned over on the showdown without someone pointing it out. You know the Dead Man’s Hand, don’t you? It’s a great hand to have and betting heavily with it makes a lot of sense.

 

Jacks full of tens.

 

Great hand!

 

Wait… you’ve heard something different?

 

Today, the consensus in the poker world is that the dead man’s hand is aces up, aces and eights. Some will go so far as to say it’s the two black aces and the two black eights. This is the hand Wild Bill Hickok reputedly held when he was shot in the back of the head by an angry gambler he’d cleaned out a few days prior. On the day he died though, anyone would tell you the dead man’s hand was three jacks and two tens. That’s because of a story of a judge who bet his house and his land on that hand, lost, and had a heart attack.

 

Is it true, though?

 

The truth is, nobody knows for certain what hand Wild Bill held but decades later aces and eights were reported and the story has stuck. Similarly, nobody knows for sure if there ever was a judge who died while holding a full house with jacks and tens.

 

Does it matter, though?

 

Just like fishing, a lot of the fun in poker comes from the stories and we all know the fish that got away is always bigger than any you’ve ever seen.

 

 

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About the Author

W.J. Wright played his first game of poker at the age of eleven. In the late eighties he started playing for money and hasn't looked back. You can usually find him hiding his hole cards while sipping scotch and considering which player and which hand will end up in his next writing project.

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