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Dead Man's Hand

Dear Mark,
I need some Hickok history regarding the "Dead Man's Hand." I know it consisted of Aces and Eights, but do you know what the "kicker was? - Marcus S.

Eight years ago when replying to a "Wild" Bill Hickok Dead Man's Hand question, I identified the kicker (fifth card) as a queen of hearts. However, further research over the years has my altering that answer. Since the complete hand no longer exists, the composition of the hand can never be proven with total certainty, but, Marcus, I have found a few new nominees.

  • The five of Diamonds - the town of Deadwood has this card on display, claiming it to be the actual card.

  • The nine of Diamonds - according to supposed eyewitness accounts at the time.

  • The jack of Diamonds - according to the transcripts of McCall's trial, a witness claims that this was the card.

  • The queen of Clubs - Ripley's Believe It Or Not has this card on display.

  • Then there are the documentaries, movies and plays that depict it as the Jack, Queen or King of Spades.

Although we will never know exactly what cards "Wild" Bill Hickok had when he was shot, when dealt black Aces and black Eights, be assured you're holding a Dead Man's Hand.

Dear Mark,
I have probably bought ten different blackjack cards over the past five years, some costing as high as $6 each. In both quality of information and manufacture, nothing comes close to yours. Of all the money I have spent to improve my gaming, nothing touches your $1 cards, and I mean it brother. - John H.

For disclosure purposes, John is neither my brother, nor brother-in-law. But, he does bring up an interesting point: Can $1 really improve your blackjack game? Absolutely, that is, if you want to drop the casino edge to less than one percent.

How so, you ask? Well, I have found that in my 18 years working the Green Felt Jungle, even players who believe they are experts at basic strategy misplay about 15 percent of their hands. My laminated basic strategy chart, a crib card matrix of 270 hand situations, is designed to give you a concise and definitive play for every starting hand you will be dealt. And as long as you do not bring a blackjack game to a dead halt, most casinos will allow you to use your strategy card right at the table. You definitely want to use it, or lose it ($$$) when referring to the tough decisions, like, what you should do with a 12 against a three? How about an Ace/3 facing a five? Should you split a pair of 7's eyeing a seven? Your replies should be "hit, double and yes."

Obviously, $1 didn't seem like much to John, and trust me folks, when you see the new laminating process I'm using to improve the quality of these cards even more, you won't either. Like others who produce strategy cards, I could charge 5X more for them, but a dollar is approximately what they cost to produce them, and let's just say I get my giggles when I get mail from the likes of John (he's not my cousin either). The only profit to be made is by YOU at the blackjack tables.

Gambling Quotes

  • "Life is a gamble, like crossing the road. One day chicken, next day feathers."- Unknown

  • "Having an ATM in a casino is like having a lap-dancer at a Hell's Angels Convention. - McAvoy Layne

  • "Gambling has held human beings in thrall for millennia. It has been engaged in everywhere, from the dregs of society to the most respectable circles."- Peter L. Bernstein

  • Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren't many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person's self-delusional ability and actual ability than in poker.- Steve Badget

  • "Betting is the only moral thing you can do. It is an intellectual pursuit, as good as The Times crossword. For millions, it is the only uninfluenced democratic decision they take."- Lord Wyatt

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