Deadman’s Hand! Famous Poker Players who died at the Tables

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and eventually everyone is dealt the Ace of Spades. But it’s fair to say that actually dying during a poker game is a rarity, but for these three players that was their final fate. If you want to try your own luck at Poker with a much lower chance of dying at the table, check out and see if you have what it takes.

Jack Straus

Jack Straus is something of a Poker Legend for his habit of hitting extremes. He had quite possibly the biggest turnaround of any WSOP player and is credited with one of the best bluffs in the history of the game. The turnaround happened in 1982, while playing in the tournament, Straus went all in on a hand but missed a single chip and rather than declare, he just shoved all his chips into the middle. After he lost, he realised he had one chip left and kept playing. This was the same year that he won the tournament, from a single chip to a bracelet, there aren’t any better comeback stories. As for the bluff, Straus began with an unenviable 2-7 off suit. As the turn came out, he had a decent but far from winning hand and, in exchange for a $25 chip from his opponent, revealed one card at random. Which successfully convinced them to fold despite the weakness of Straus’ hand. Straus died of an aneurysm while at the table at the age of 58.

Tom Abdo

Tom Abdo is almost the odd man out here, unlike the other players on this list he’s really only well known for his death and his surprisingly optimistic outlook after a heart attack. Abdo was playing a game when the heart attack struck and was treated as soon as possible. The part that really stood out was that while he was being cared for, he asked another player to count his chips and save his seat. While suffering a fatal cardiac arrest, the man planned to come back to the table. For his sheer commitment, Abdo was entered into the Hall of Fame.

Wild Bill Hickok

A legend of the Wild West, Bill Hickok was a man who held many roles during his life – gunslinger, lawman, drover, even a showman – but the one which is most relevant to this story is his love of gambling. Wild Bill was an inveterate gambler who played well and fast, apparently well enough that he thoroughly riled up a gambler by the name of Jack McCall who was so incensed by Hickok that he shot him in the back while he was playing. Hickok’s death is the stuff of legends, seeing an adaption in the TV series Deadwood and inspiring the phrase Deadman’s Hand at all. Deadman’s hand refers to the combination Hickok had when he was gunned down, two eights and two aces. It’s been called that informally ever since.


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