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A Dead Man's Hand, also known as "aces and eights", is a poker hand consisting of two aces, two eights, and a fifth card of any value. It was supposedly the hand drawn by Wild Bill Hickok before his death, although this is unsubstantiated. This hand is now considered unlucky.

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.

If you're looking for the book in the Wild Cards series, it's here.

Examples of Dead Man's Hand include:

Comic Books

  • 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.


Live-Action TV

  • 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.


  • The Motorhead song "Ace of Spades" refers to this hand.
  • "Rambling, Gambling Willie" by Bob Dyllan 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:

  " 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..."


  "who's gonna play those eights and aces?"

  • Michael Mc Dermott 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"


Tabletop Games

  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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 Lucas Arts 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.