What Is Dead Man’s Hand In Poker?

Poker is an extremely popular game being played over centuries all around the world. There are various superstitions and myths associated with the game which have been followed in the game and also find its reference in the general walks of life. One such myth is the Dead man’s hand. 

What Is Dead Man's Hand In Poker?

A dead man’s hand is considered as a bad omen in poker games. The whispers on the table will make you feel the goosebumps that the poker players get when a dead man’s hand comes in poker. A dead man’s hand is a term that refers to a set of four cards- two aces and two eights.

How did the myth come to being?

The dead man’s hand has a real life incidence associated with it which traces back to 1878. A famous lawman and a professional gambler named James Butler was killed by a local drunkard in South Dakota. James Butler was killed in the same casino where he was a regular while playing poker. 

It is said that a day before the incidence James was at the casino and he joined a poker table. As soon as he started playing, a person on the table named McCall started to lose the game and he ended up losing a huge amount of money. After the game, James offered him a meal and advised McCall to not play until he was in a position to cover the losses he had incurred. McCall did not take it well and felt insulted. 

The very next day, while James was playing is a regular game at the casino table, McCall came in with a loaded gun and fired it on James’ head killing him on the spot. It created a ruckus in the casino. Later it was found that when James got shot he had five cards- two eights and two aces and the fifth card was not revealed. Since then it is considered that the combination of two eights and two aces is a bad omen and something would go wrong with the one holding the dead man’s hand.

There are many books written around this concept and this story which state other facts and relate other stories which tell how players having two eights and two aces have suffered sometimes.

The relevance of the dead man’s hand today:

A dead man’s hand when looked at from the perspective of card ranking is not very significant. The combination of the two eights and two aces and the fifth card being a joker also is not a winning combination. A royal flush or a straight flush stand very high chances of winning against the dead man’s hand. However, in poker a dead man’s hand is not known for its ability to win or to beat the fellow players- it is rather a bad omen. 

The dead man’s hand has more historical, cultural and mythological significance then it has in card ranking. 


Blog Summary

Blog Name: What Is Dead Man’s Hand In Poker?

Posted On: 02/07/2019

Author: Jennifer Albee