The Death of Wild Bill Hickok

by Lou on August 3, 2011

On August 2, 1876, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot to death while playing poker in Deadwood’s Saloon No. 10, in what was then the Dakota Territory.   It was always Hickok’s custom to sit with his back to the wall, but when he entered the game, the only available seat put his back to the door. Hickok twice asked Charles Rich to exchange seats with him, but Rich refused both times.

Jack McCall, who had been feuding with Wild Bill walked in unnoticed, drew a pistol and shouted, “Take that!” before firing.  McCall’s bullet entered the back of Hickok’s head and exited his cheek, killing him instantly.  The hand Bill was holding at the time—a pair of aces and a pair of eights, with the fifth card unknown—has since been known as the “dead man’s hand.”

During his life, Wild Bill, who was aged 39 when he died, had been a stagecoach driver, a wagon master for the Army, a lawman, scout, gunfighter, marksman, actor, and professional gambler.  In death he has become a folk hero and a symbol of the American frontier.

In 1979, Hickok was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

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