Dead Man’s Hand: What is it and How to Play it?

Since playing cards have been a part of our culture for many years, we can anticipate some fascinating tales about them. The fable of the dead man’s hand is among the most well-known legends ever. Most players are somewhat superstitious, and we’ve all heard tales of lucky dice and cards. Many card combinations, including dead man’s hand, which consists of two black aces and two black eights, have earned their names.

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The Meaning of Dead Man’s Hand in Poker

In modern poker, receiving an Ace, an 8, or two Aces and two 8s in a five-card game variant is called the dead man’s hand. A true dead man’s hand poker would consist of two black 8s and two black aces. It is the card that Wild Bill Hickok is said to have been holding as he died horribly.

The term was previously applied to a few other possibly superstitious hands before this one adopted it. Jacks and 8s, Jacks and 7s, and a Full House with Jacks over 10s have all been referred to with the same name, but 8s and aces have been the recognized dead man’s hand since Wild Bill’s tragic poker death.

The Legend of Wild Bill Hickok and Dead Man’s Combination

Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876) was a well-known gunman in the Wild West, and his real name was James Butler Hickok. Because he was a renowned Civil War veteran and a renowned lawman and gunfighter in the American West, Wild Bill earned his fame. He gained admiration for his participation in numerous shootouts, his iron grip on the lawlessness of the time, and his prowess at the tables. The public closely followed him, publishing tales of his numerous gun battles and victories. However, of all his stories, the most infamous is his death.

In the murder of Wild Bill Hickock, it is said that he was holding a five-card hand, but the exact combination is unknown. The only thing known about that five-card hand combination is that a two-pair was present.

Despite the association with Hickok, the dead man’s hand has been mentioned numerous times throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Still, it wasn’t until the early 1920s that it was connected to Wild Bill Hickok. Throughout history, numerous variations of the dead man’s poker hand have existed, as mentioned earlier.

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How to Play the Dead Man’s Hand in Poker?

Dead man’s hand cards in poker are feared for a reason. You don’t have to freak out if you get dealt the hand. You can use these tips whenever you are in this position.

A player in Texas Hold ‘Em who is given an eight and an ace at the start of the game can already play the cards in the dead man’s hand. You have a high-ranking card. You just need to use the finest possible combination at this point. Depending on the community cards, you can form a full house, three-of-a-kind, or four-of-a-kind.

You should call if you are in the small blind position. You can call but wait to raise if you’re not in a blind position. Remember to understand what is happening before the flop, then decide on your move.

You can participate if another player places a small wager. Remember that you currently hold a strong hand and that anything can happen in a game. However, if a player goes all-in, it could be necessary to fold immediately.

When the community flop cards are dealt, see if they have an ace or an 8. If you only see one ace, even though your single eight is a liability, you already have high pair. Even so, the fourth or fifth street might still show an 8, which would be helpful for at least a two-pair combination. However, you get a three-of-a-kind if there is more than one ace or 8s in the flop. 

You can call any stake other players have raised at this game stage. Even when two aces or two eights are visible, if everyone chooses to play it safe, it indicates they do not have a good hand. Given the odds, getting a Straight, Flush, or Royal Flush is now difficult for any player. If you have three-of-a-kind, you can raise, but if you only have one or two pairs, wait for the fourth and fifth streets.

If there is another ace or eight on the fourth street, you have a full house or three-of-a-kind in the lead. In addition to your hole cards, if two aces or eights were shown in the flop, you would have obtained a four-of-a-kind.

Feel free to go all-in when the fifth street or final community card is dealt and the odds are entirely in your favor.ย 

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When to Fold Your Cards

Fold immediately if the probability balance tells you your opponent has a higher-ranking combination at any time throughout the game or if an ace or an eight hasn’t shown since the flop cards. 

Don’t play the hand, even if you believe a player is all-in on a bluff when you get your hole cards. Up until you locate at least three-of-a-kind, it is regarded as risky. Participate until the flop cards are shown, as long as everyone uses defensive tactics. After that, you can decide to fold or continue.


Even though the dead man’s hand is a card combination that some feared, it can be a good card, so as long as you know how to play them and the odds are also in your favor. You can use the tips mentioned above but always be flexible in adjusting your moves. Try free poker games to practice your skills, or if you get dealt with this hand, you’ll know how to play.