“Tickets…get your Tickets”
Today I was thinking about all the posts I have shared with you all, and how for the most part they are down beat or depressing. Yes prison is depressing and awful, evil, and ugly, violent and full of racism, but there are also “good” times if that’s even permitted to say here. But this time of year something special happens in each and every day-room. Something that allowed me and the others to forget, even for a few hours where we were. To forget the metal and steel, to forget the grey and white.
I know even though I am not there today, this weekend will be buzzing with tickets. The start of the college football season and the NFL season signals that starting Friday night those tickets will appear in the day-room. The term tickets simply means gambling tickets. Little pieces of paper with the games point spreads, and overs and under, along with the odds. I know because I ran them the last 4 years on the Hughes Unit in Texas.
Usually around Wednesday or Thursday I would get a newspaper and start checking out the lines for that weekends games. Some explaining may be required here. Me and the money man, which is the person usually fronting the cash or bank, meaning he had last say in the odds and lines I setup. I got a 25% cut of all money received off the top, not all money men did that, most gave you a 25% cut off the top. Less any winnings paid out. Have I confused you all yet?
I guess what I mean is if I collected $100 dollars in commissary cause no actually cash was ever involved, I would take $25 of that right away. Others would collect $100 on bets and if there were a few winners totaling $50, then I would have only got 25% of that $50, meaning $12.50, unless my math is wrong lol. Since I ran tickets for the biggest money man on the unit and I was known as a pretty good ticket runner who did a good job collecting money I could demand 25% up front. I would think on the Hughes, with about 3000 inmates there was as many as 10 different tickets a weekend.
Some would never make it to our side of the farm for different reasons. One would be how hard it would be to collect store and pay out the winnings. That would require hiring an SSI who traveled to those other buildings and dorms and having to pay them also, usually out of my pocket. It just wasn't worth the problems. On average I would say I collected $200 a week on bets. I could get lucky and have no hits or real bad and have a few hundred to pay out. Most times it boiled down to one game screwing me over.
Now I’ll explain the tickets a little more in detail. First off I would think about 50% of the guys played tickets believe it or not, some would gamble $10-$20, some maybe .25 cents. My job was to set the lines based on the newspaper, give or take what I though it should or shouldn't be. I may add a point or 2 here, or take a few away. Point spreads are a plus and minus based on the favorites or underdogs in each game. Dallas +3 would mean they were getting 3 points off the top at the beginning of the game (underdog) Eagles-3 of course the opposite.
The over and under were my favorite cause I really didn't care who won as long as the total score for each team went over or under. Example if the over was 48, and the final was 27-24, meaning the game went over based on the total score of 51, ties always went back to me or meant they lost. So this weekend some of your loved ones will be going over the college games, tomorrow the NFL tickets would come out. The tables would be filled with notes and newspapers and the sports TV would be watched by all gamblers waiting on any info about the games. Injuries were key, and predictions by so called experts were taken with a grain of salt.
Questions were asked, and recommendations were given and the gambler would usually take the opposite. Soups and coffee, pouches and mint sticks were collected, and tickets turned in with my check mark meaning that payment in full had been received. Changes were made up to the last minutes and some deals were made also. “Money” was borrowed, and shouts of “I’ll catch you on store day” echoed throughout the day room.
For those wondering or asking, I did let guys “slide”, meaning letting them play without paying until they could. I was a nice bookie haha. Of course I took a big chance collecting all this store and tickets. We tried to be as “undercover” as we could with turning in tickets. I hated it when someone would approach my cell or table with 10 soups, 4 pouches, and 10 mint sticks. If the cops saw that they may think something illegal was going on, joking of course.
When someone won big, and there were a few, and by big a mean $100 or more, it was a big problem packing it up and giving it to that person. If he was in the same pod it would be no trouble and I could give it out a little at a time on in’s and out’s or maybe all in a commissary bag at once. Another pod was a headache, but not like another building. See I had sub-bookie’s working for me on other buildings with their little stash too, but if they were hit hard, they needed my bigger stash, and hopefully not money man’s stash too.
Going back to paying off another pod in my section, the key was the opening under the doors that separated pod from pod. If I was in the middle pond it was great. That way I could pay out either pod to my left or right by passing the winnings under the doors on any floor, 1 through 3. Hopefully the opening was enough to do so. Pouches were easy as were bags of coffee, soups could be a headache. Many a time the sound of smashing soups against the ground could be hear so as to pass it under the door easier.
What these tickets did for the most part was made us forget about where we were. For a few hours a day, they was no color or drama. Sure there always was even during the games, but it was minimized. Most eyes in the day-room were on the sports TV’s and a half dozen guys could be standing under that TV to get a better view. Of course the guards would come over the loud speaker and announce “No standing in the day-room”, to which a few would reply “Shut up bitch”.
I know most of you think, and with reason most cops are butt heads and evil, and a lot are, but there are some pretty good ones that let a lot go by. I remember once a few cops taking me out in the sally port. That’s a door way going outside to chow hall or out of the building kind of thing. It has 2 doors that are never supposed to be opened at the same time, almost like an airlock. So in I go with a regular CO, a Sarge, and a Major. I know I’m screwed and all the other guys are watching knowing I’m screwed too. I was never known as a snitch and never did.
So in I go with about 50 years combined TDC Bullcrap and await my crucifixion. In the back ground I see dozens of pairs of eyes on me, some I’m sure worried I’ll snitch about my involvement in the tickets, hell I am the friggin tickets. I’ll back up a bit, see if the cops decide to shake a guy’s locker down and want to be real you know what heads, they will ask for your receipt for all your commissary. Well if my locker had $400 worth of store and my receipt, said $75 they could/would take $325 and write me a case.
So the first thing out of the majors mouth is “Smith don’t lie or I’ll f with me” He didn’t just say f if you get my drift. I had learned a long time ago that most cops just want the truth and no BS. So I said ok. “We know you run tickets, right” to which I simply said “Yes sir”. Then the surprise came or at least a few of them. “You know that is illegal and I could give you a major case and throw your ass in jail”. Jail was a term we used for the hole, solitary, Agg Seg. Of course I said yes again and waiting for the bomb to drop.
“All I want, not ask is you respect my men by not putting it all over the place, are we clear”, again, a yes sir. He went on to tell me he didn't want to see any of that shit on tables or taped to the wall, no passing of store under the doors, because if he did it would all come back on me and he would turn the TV’s off Sunday. I was thinking this was a dream or test. I stood there and just kept saying yes.
He went on to say gambling was a big part of prison and actually was a good think for the inmates. It kept their minds off other bullshit. To be honest I always thought the same. On any given weekend all the guys were different, some wouldn't even go to chow and instead watch the game. There were smiles and jokes made, there were yells and shouts of joy and anger over a last second touchdown or a missed field goal.
He then said “How many points are you giving the Texans”, to which I replied “As many as you need”. I was let go and I returned to the pod to a bunch of stares and questions. I kind of relayed what he said and told the guys lets be cool about this stuff and not get in a wreck over it. The term wreck in prison simply meant trouble. Gambling is and I’m sure still is a huge part of prison life. It was fun and at times exciting, it was a time we all forgot where we were and concentrated on our tickets and on the scores displayed at the bottom of the TV as we watched the live game.
You had to pick at least 4 winners on your ticket, that was the minimum. The most you could pick was 8, and again you had to get all 8 right to win unless you played a parlay ticket, those I didn't run, and to be honest had no time to run them. An example is if you picked 4 on a ticket and bet $1 you would win about $6 to $8 depending on what me and the money man decided that week.
There isn't a weekend go by that I don’t miss doing the ticket thing again. To be honest I actually liked the guys to hit on their tickets, it was good for business and made for a happy day-room too. I used to always tell the guys that every game has a winner, it’s that easy, and all you have to do is pick 4 of them to win. So right now I know you all are sad and miss your loved one, but think he, if playing the tickets, may have a smile on his face as he goes over them and figures things out. For a brief moment he is free again.