Poker: Under the gun with a Dead Man's Hand

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The Independent Culture
WILD BILL HICKOK was shot in the back in a game at Deadwood, South Dakota, holding aces and eights. Ever since, two pairs aces and eights have been known as the Dead Man's Hand.

Wild Bill's game was five card draw, the classic poker game. How would you play this hand, last to speak, playing limit stakes draw?

4 of Spades, 4 of Clubs, 3 of Hearts

3 of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs

As Granpa used to say, never trust a man with a diamond stick pin. And never play two small pairs. But there are exceptions. With an ante of 50p from seven players, an opening bet of pounds 5, and one caller, the pot is worth pounds 13.50 when the betting gets round to you.

Sitting under the gun, the opener, who you know is a solid player, probably has two pairs. The fact that the only caller, sitting next to you, did not raise, suggests he only has a single pair - the money odds are not there to draw to a straight or a flush. But sitting in the last seat has given you one great advantage - you can see how the others react ahead of you. So the answer is to raise pounds 5 again and stand pat.

The opener, who drew one card, squeezes it in his hand, and then sits bolt upright, trying to look keen. The second player however, drew two cards. He looks at them quickly and then lolls back in his chair, as if searching for butterflies on the ceiling. Clearly the opener has missed. He is a 'value' poker player, who would only have opened on two strong pairs. The second player, who likes to take chances, certainly improved. Probably he kept a small pair with an ace kicker and hit his ace, though the single ace in your hand reduces his chances.

Your hand is well beaten by both players. But do not give up - there is a way out. Because you stood pat, the others will certainly check around. You bet the pounds 10 limit.

There is pounds 33.50 in the pot. Do they dare call? You only have to make this bluff work once in four times to make a profit. What's more, if you are caught, it will ensure you get called every time you do hit a hand.

But better remember the example of Wild Bill Hickok and sit with your back to the wall.

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