Gambling in Prison

By Seth Ferranti 03/21/13

Prisoners will bet on "anything and everything" to get a thrill, an inmate tells The Fix.

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Prisons are filled with addicts of all types: For many inmates, gambling may be the most accessible and permitted way to seek a rush. Prisoners bet on everything from card games, to football on TV, to sports played within the facilities. "You can bet on anything in here," a prisoner tells The Fix. "They got tickets for football, basketball, Nascar, whatever." Football season always draws the biggest crowds. "On Saturdays and Sundays the TV rooms are packed with dudes literally fighting for spots to put their chairs," the prisoner says. "Dudes are sweating their tickets—4 picks, 10 pick teasers, straight bets, freeze outs. Mostly its a couple of stamps here and there. But some dudes bet 100's of books a weekend." Stamps are used for currency in prison and a book is twenty stamps which is valued at $6, which is a lot by prison standards. For some, gambling may be a means of securing drugs, the prisoner explains: "if you hit that 10 pick teaser you're rich, well at least prison rich and when dudes hit and are flush with cash you know they're looking for the dope man to get high." Card games, like poker (as well as spades, "tunk," twenty-one and hearts) are also hugely popular, with many prisoners playing 24/7, and only returning to their cells when mandated. But sports betting, especially football, is where the stakes are highest. The prisoner says ESPN is always playing on television, and inmates will compulsively check the bottom line for scores. "Don't get caught turning that channel either," the prisoner says. "You will get your ass beat."

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.