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Legends of Poker – Wild Bill Hickok

Arjun📁articles🕔30.March 2018
Legends of Poker – Wild Bill Hickok

Hello, and welcome to our first post about the Legends of Poker! In this series, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most significant poker players to have ever lived. Starting with that legend of the Wild West himself, Wild Bill Hickok!


Wild Bill Hickok, or James Butler Hickok as his mother would’ve probably called him, was born in 1837 in Illinois and died (famously) in 1876 in the storied town of Deadwood, South Dakota. He was just 39 years old, but he packed a lot into those years – he was a lawman, a soldier, a gunfighter, an actor, a showman, a spy, a wagon master and, most importantly, one of the best known poker players in the world while he lived.

Love of Poker

Of course, Wild Bill lived long before the days of online poker; and yet, his fame spread to all corners of the West. His larger-than-life deeds went before him, so that he was usually greeted by a crowd of starstruck folk and hangers-on whenever he arrived in a new town – but mostly, all he wanted to do wasplay poker.

Poker was Wild Bill Hickok’s passion, and he took pride in it just as much as he did in his gunfighting skills and other talents. We talk about playing poker for real money, but this was a time when poker was played for actual nuggets of gold on the table! It was his refuge, much more so than his other occupations – in fact, in his brief career as an actor, he once famously shot a spotlight when it focused on him. But poker put him at ease, and his unquestioned skill at it led both to his increasing fame as a poker player and his increasing desire to seek it out wherever it went. Which, in turn, led to his untimely death on an August morning in Deadwood.


Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker – specifically, five-card stud – in a saloon, as was his habit. Unusually for him, he was facing away from the door, and so he was shot and killed by an irate gambler who he had lent some money to the previous day.


As a recognition of his love for the game, Wild Bill Hickok was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979. Although three Poker Hall of Famers have diedwhileactually playing poker, Wild Bill Hickok thankfully remains the only one to have done so as a result of violence.

The hand he was holding at the time of his death – two pair, black aces and black eights, and a fifth unknown hole card – have entered folklore as the ‘dead man’s hand’ whichwe’ve mentioned recently here.

At Khelo365, one of our favourite things about poker is its undeniablecoolfactor – and there’s no denying that Wild Bill Hickok had it in spades! Stay tuned for more fascinating tidbits about the Legends of Poker when we return next week.

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