Alpha Male Ryan: Texas hold ‘em tournaments in prison.

Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em? In prison, the inmates sure did, Alpha Male Ryan says. (Photo by Alpha Male Ryan).

Editor’s Note: Texas hold ‘em, a variation of the standard card game of poker, is banned by the Florida Department of Corrections in the state’s prisons, along with all other forms of gambling, as a “miscellaneous infraction.” Freeline Media contributor Alpha Male Ryan, who spent two years in prison, said gambling was not only common, it was big business behind bars — for inmates and corrections officers alike.

There was something you’re always told in county (jail) that you should adhere to: stay away from gays, girls, gambling, gangs and tattoo guns.
And I stayed away from tattoos — I didn’t get any tattoos in prison.
I obviously didn’t have any problems with gangs or gays.
But gambling … now, that was a big thing.
We used to play Texas hold ‘em a lot. It’s a form of poker. Dealer decks the cards, you bid on the two cards in your hands, plus the five cards they gave you. You see one card and bid again, and see another card and bid again. You keep doing this until somebody stops bidding.
Chips were just torn up old decks of cards.
We had a lot of inmates in these games. Sometimes we had as many as eight or nine people in one game. Gambling was a big operation, quite a bit. It was a way for inmates to make money. On the prison compound, the inmates didn’t have s**t, so they had to make money somehow.
To play, you had to bring money to the wood — meaning to the table. You had to have money to bring with you. Some inmates brought food. I had money, though. It was easy enough to get from weekend visitations. I’d sneak the paper money in to play with.
The Texas hold ‘em tournaments would last for hours, sometimes days. Sometimes we’d have to keep our chips and come back to the game. It would depend on how much we had to play for.
Most of the guards didn’t care if we played. You just had to hide the money if they came around. Sometimes we just had to pay them off.
We had some big fights over these games. There were a couple of games I got furious at because I knew the other guys were cheating. I watched how they did it. I knew by watching them glancing at each other and giving one another certain looks — signals for when to drop out. They knew exactly what everyone else was doing. They were f**king snakes. I told them, “Get the f**k out of my house, the game is over.” I told them to take whatever chips they had and count them out.
But I didn’t get into a fistfight with anyone over gambling — I didn’t have to. Nobody ever tried me like that.
I was good at the games. I never knew how to play dominoes when I went into prison. I had some buddies teach me how to do it, and then I learned how to count. Double 6 Dominoes is a game of count. I eventually had guys betting me on, that’s how good I got.
Texas hold ‘em, that game I was pretty good at. I finished in the top three at the VFW and Moose Lodge in Orlando. They had Texas hold ‘em tournaments that I played in. I was so good that sometimes I had guys that I just cleaned house, and I felt guilty about it.
I warned them about that, and I would whoop them every time. A couple of times, guys got mad at that and wanted to fight me when they lost — “Oh, you set that up,” they’d tell me, just stupid stuff like that. So I’d say, “Just accept your a**-whoopin’. I told you I’d beat you.”
What does it say about prison that the guards let us gamble? It says that prison is a piece of s**t, and they’ll let you do it if they get their kickback.
It’s not about them upholding the law. It’s about them getting their piece of the pie.

Contact Alpha Male Ryan at

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