The alleged Trope Namer
on display at the No. 10 Saloon, in Deadwood, South Dakota.
A Dead Man's Hand, also known as "aces and eights", is a poker hand consisting of two black aces, two black eights, and (traditionally) the nine of diamonds. It was supposedly the hand drawn by Wild Bill Hickok before his death, although this is unsubstantiated. This hand is now considered unlucky, despite being better than over 95% of five-card hands.
In modern fiction, this particular hand is often used as a type of Portent Of Doom
, often signifying that the character who drew it is soon to die.
Particularly likely to be found in The Western
. For cards that are literally deadly, see Death Dealer
Subtrope of Portent Of Doom
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- In the prologue of Batman RIP, Batman speaks to The Joker in Arkham Asylum. The Joker taunts Batman with his upcoming destruction while dealing out a dead man's hand.
Film - Live-Action
- In Stagecoach, Luke holds this hand. He is shortly therafter gunned down by the Ringo Kid.
- In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the titular character Liberty draws this hand right before being shot.
- In Along Came A Spider, aces and eights is referenced as the winning hand that gave ownership of a Turkish hand-made shotgun to the father of Agent Flannigan and later in the feature was the clue that revealed her involvement with the kidnapping plot.
- The X-Files episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", has the titlular character playing poker with Agent Scully and holding a full house of aces and eights with the ace of hearts as the fifth card. As one might suspect from the episode name, he dies.
- Surprisingly averted in Deadwood, which featured Wild Bill as a character and dramatizes his murder at the hands of Jack McCall, but does not show what cards he was holding, possibly because there is little solid evidence that Hickok really was holding such a hand.
- The Motörhead song "Ace of Spades" refers to this hand:
"Pushin' up the ante, I know you got to see me
Read 'em and weep, the dead man's hand again"
- "Rambling, Gambling Willie" by Bob Dylan contains a direct reference to this hand, as well.
- The Uncle Kracker song "Aces and Eights" is named for the Dead Man's hand.
- The Bring Me The Horizon song "Alligator Blood" contains a reference to it.
- The song "Aces & Eights" from the Lita Ford album Stiletto has the lyrics:
"The dead man's hand holds aces and eights"
- Reckless Kelly's song "Nobody Haunts Me Like You" also makes reference:
"...like a shot in the back holding aces and eights..."
- Brutal DLX also references this in their lyrics:
" I dreamed I was the dealer of a dead man's hand..."
- In the song "Fire Lake" by Bob Seger:
"who's gonna play those eights and aces?"
- Michael McDermott has written a song titled "Aces and Eights". The song says that life can make you feel like:
"Looking over my shoulder, holding aces and eights."
- In the song "Little Wille the Gambler" by Townes Van Zandt:
"Willie's cards fell on the floor they were aces backed with eights"
- "Dead Man's Hand" is the name of the latest album released by metal band Dezperadoz. Of course it's a Western Metal act, so that's a great name to go with the theme
- The biker gang that has been invading TNA as of summer/fall 2012 uses the dead man's hand as their calling card and actually goes by the name of Aces & Eights.
- In the wild west supplement to the Munchkin card game, Dead Man's Hand is a curse card that forces you to discard your whole hand.
- Traveller. Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society magazine #14 adventure "Aces & Eights". A set of playing cards (two aces, two eights and the joker), will, when put in an X-ray machine, create a map to the location of a 20 million credit treasure. The money was the payroll of the 1188th "Aces and Eights" Lift Infantry Brigade. The man with the cards is killed by the bad guys and the cards stolen, and the PCs must retrieve them.
- In Deadlands, if you cast Soul Blast and draw a Dead Man's Hand, it becomes an automatic One-Hit Kill.
- In the Fallout New Vegas expansion "Dead Money", the player can get an achievement for getting the dead man's hand from the deadly, abandoned casino Sierra Madre.
- In The Curse Of Monkey Island, if the player has Guybrush keep losing against King André and then looking at the losing hands, one of the random comments Guybrush will make is "Aces and eights... that can't be good." This being a LucasArts game, Guybrush of course doesn't die... though he does fake his death at one point.
- Happens twice in the Wing Commander series. In Wing Commander II, Spirit gets dealt the hand and later kamikazes a Kilrathi-controlled space station. In Wing Commander IV, Vagabond gets the killer hand, and dies later in a mission that goes badly wrong. Bonus points for it being one of the few times the card shark had lost... and to Maniac, no less.
- The evidence for Hickok holding such a hand is scant. The first documentary evidence comes in a letter written by a witness fifty years after the fact, and said letter doesn't specify the suits of the aces-and-eights pairs. Additionally, the phrase "dead man's hand" was attached to several different card combinations in the years after Hickok's murder. See Straight Dope column here.
- Historical displays in Deadwood, SD, depict the fifth card as the nine of diamonds.