Prison poker games can be a real blood sport at times, but the event known as ‘Convict Poker’ held at the Angola Prison is literally a blood sport. Convict Poker is just one of the event presented during Angola’s yearly rodeo. The sport consist of four men sitting around a table, engaging in a mock game of poker, in the middle of a inmate built outdoor arena.
Instead of the man with the best hand being the winner. The one who wins this game will be the last man seated, while a bull, charges, the players and the table.
The Angola Rodeo has been around for 50 years as of 2014. It’s last even drew a crowd of 70,000. The prison is the largest maximum security institution in the United States., located in Louisiana, were the incarceration rate is the highest in the nation. Holding 6,200 inmates, 4,600 are serving life sentences and the average sentence amongst them is 91.5 years.
The institutions annual rodeo is a much welcomed event amongst the inmate population participants and spectators, who see it as needed change from daily routine of prison life. Usually taking place over one week in April and every Sunday in October.
Now don’t get it twisted Angola’s rodeo is your average rodeo, while some of the events are standard other aren’t, like ‘Wild Cow milking and the ‘Gut & Glory’ contest, in which participants try to snatch a red poker chip tied to the forehead of a Brahman bull. Open to the public since 1967, the arena seats 11,000, admission is $15 and the event brings in an audience that spans clear across the nation.
While these events are a major adrenaline rush and stress reliever for institution inmates. Some think it’s quite draconian, these men are risking their live and well being for no monetary benefit. The pay off for them is simply an escape from the monotony of prison life. While the proceeds from the 2014 event are expected to exceed well over 2.5 million, (Wow!! that allot of commissary money) some of the funds going toward a re-entry and rehabilitation programs. Now if the mere idea of this has sunk in, and some of you are still shaking your head trying to wrap your mind around the morality of this, trust your not alone. Sport Illustrated Columnist L. Jon Wertheim says: ” The event has been likened to gladiators in a Coliseum, and characterized by critics as plantation-style entertainment: The majority of the inmates are African American and the majority of the crowd is not.”
That being so, one cannot ignore the fact that the men who participate in the Angola rodeo genuinely are having fun and enjoy the sport. The Gods honest truth of the matter is… it wouldn’t be a truly attractive sport if there wasn’t some level of risk to life and limb and mankind has been attracted to these types of event for thousand of years. Therefore as long as the inmates aren’t being forced to participate in these events, more power to them and I wish them all the best of luck.
That being said I’d like to give a special acknowledgement to the events winner of the 2014 All Around Cowboy Award Gary Lindsey. You Go Cowwwboyy!!!!
Featured photo used from [Resource: Sports Illustrated November 17, 2014 issue]