Prison Poker Champ?

By: Brad

It had to happen soon enough, that the guy they called “LA” would soon have his identity from the “outside” revealed.  Until now, I was just a guy trying to find his way in his new and temporary “home,” the Satellite Camp at FCI Big Spring.  Until now, the other 157 inmates knew me for my regimented work-out routine, how I loved to read for at least 90 minutes a day, and how I loved to buy an absurd amount of Oreo cookies at the Commissary Store.  That’s basically what they knew.  They didn’t know “me” – they didn’t know my story.

A little perspective is needed.  At Beit T’Shuvah, we learn about transparency; we understand that telling “our” respective stories is an integral part of the therapeutic process.  There, at Camp, interaction is different, if not the complete inverse from what we have been taught.  While the Camp resembles nothing of that life is like “behind the fence,” there is protocol.  And one of the unwritten rules is: you don’t advertise your “story” to the general population – unless specifically asked.  Eighty percent of the guys are here for drug offenses, about ten percent white-collar, and the rest a mix – firearms and alien trafficking. All this brings me back to last Wednesday.  I was sitting around with a few of the guys, after lunch, when one of them brought to my attention that they needed “one” for their nightly game of Texas-Hold’em.

“C’mon, play!  The games are great, a lot of fun.”

I politely declined.  “Thanks for the offer; I’m gonna watch the Laker game.”

“We’re gonna watch while we play.  You never play.  C’mon, it’s not gonna kill you.”

I could only smile and chuckle at that one.  Funny, that’s exactly what I thought when I started playing cards in the locker room after games in high school.  I certainly never thought it would kill me to play seemingly every night in my fraternity house in college.  And it wouldn’t kill me to play games in a suite at the Four Seasons for the last 3 years.

But it came close.

As those of us in the program know, in the “Yellow Book” of GA, it explicitly states that the destruction of gambling “can lead to prison, insanity or death.”  If insanity is to be defined by trying to obtain a different result with the same and repeated behavior, I almost hit a triple crown.

No, gambling didn’t kill me.  But it came dangerously close.  As I told my story of deceit and destruction to a few of the guys, they certainly understood, respectfully, that I should be nowhere near a card table, a domino game, or dice.

I’m actually pretty proud of how far I’ve progressed.  Certainly, nobody would ever know if I sat down for a game.  The stakes are miniscule.  As inmates, we don’t carry currency – it’s considered contraband.  We have our commissary accounts – $350 per month is our spending limit.  By the way, it’s always amusing and very easy to spot the “losers.”  They are the guys who leave the commissary with more merchandise that they can carry themselves.

The fact is, I had no interest, no desire to engage.  I was thinking to myself how pathetic it would be – I get financially obliterated playing at home, but I could get a nice consolation prize: Poker Champ of FCI Big Spring.  Just what I didn’t need.

I wish the guys well who play.  I have absolutely no resentments, no triggers, no problems with it.  As is true with the outside world, some will get it, some won’t; some will have the ability to abstain, some will be devastated.

Kathy has noted that gambling fills 3 major voids: impulse, coping and depression.  I’m certainly in a place where there are 157 other guys who might need it.  I don’t.

And now I don’t have to be worried about being dragged in.  They know my story and respect it.

3 thoughts on “Prison Poker Champ?

  1. Brad,

    What a great article and I look forward to them each time they come to my mailbox.

  2. Hey Brad,

    I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well. And even more glad to hear that you’re allowed to watch Lakers games 🙂 Repeating is gonna be tough this year. Dallas and Denver are playing great, and Lebron and Cleveland seem to be on a mission. But, we still have Kobe, and thats all that matters. Stay well!

    – Sammy

  3. Hi Brad !!
    Glad to hear that you are adjusting as well as possible. I sure do miss you and our talks. Your input & vision is an inspiration to me. I’m a level 4 now and hard at work. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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