How was your day .. Super Bowl prison bookie?

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John Broman
Federal Prisoner, United States Penitentiary, Hazelton, West Virginia

Well, every day in prison is like the movie Groundhog Day. Things might vary slightly from one day to the next, but I'm always going to wake up to a steel door being unlocked — and slamming shut at the end of each day. It's my entrance to the netherworld of corruption and violence in which I exist.

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I'm doing an 18-year sentence for a bank robbery charge out of Pittsburgh. As a white, middle-class, dreadlocked hippie, prison life was a bit of culture shock for me at first. But after 13 years, I've found everyone in here has a hustle. To make extra money. To survive. Whether it's doing laundry or fixing radios or selling drugs, everyone has their hand in the underground prison economy.

My hustle is booking gambling tickets. I've made bookoo stamps. For the uninitiated, stamps is money in here. Football season has been in full swing — everyone gambles on the NFL. I made a killing on the bowl games, and now things are heating up as convicts scramble to get their bets in for the playoffs. And then we've got the Super Bowl.

Life in prison: A look at becoming an inmate

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How was your day .. Super Bowl prison bookie?
Prisoners stand while being processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. They arrive by the busload each Tuesday and Thursday, dozens of new inmates entering Georgiaâs prison system. Most stay only a week or two. But for those sentenced to die, this is their last stop. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Frederick Harris, right, cuts the hair of Josh Harris, no relation, as he is processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. When inmates arrive, their possessions are inventoried. Then they shower and don white jumpsuits. They sit in barber chairs while permanent inmates give them close haircuts, then pose for an ID photo. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A motivational poster hangs on the wall as prisoners stand at attention while being processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The prison, the stateâs biggest, houses about 2,100 male inmates on a wooded, 900-acre campus about 50 miles south of Atlanta. A warden and three deputy wardens oversee more than 600 employees. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Prisoner Ricky Wheat looks out from his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Inside the prison itâs loud and busy. Heavy metal gates clank open and shut. Inmates shuffle in single-file lines, guided by just a few guards. Chatter, shouts and the crackling of radios echo with nothing soft in sight to absorb the sound. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A prisoner faces a mural painted by inmates on a cinderblock wall inside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. When visitors approach, inmates in the hallways turn their backs and stand close to the walls. That makes it easy for guards to spot a guy who steps out of line. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Capt. Dwain Williams checks on a prisoner in the the Special Management Unit, known as high-max at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Face-to-face interaction is rare. The cells are only 7 by 13½ feet, and inmates canât see out unless guards slide back a metal cover over the grated opening on the door. Meals slide through an opening like a mail slot. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An inmate looks out of his cell in the the Special Management Unit, known as high-max at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. A select few have glass instead of sliding metal doors as windows because theyâre known to hurt themselves and need extra supervision. Theyâre on the same row as others whose cells are behind a glass partition because they have a history of throwing things, including bodily fluids, from their cells. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An inmate takes a GED exam at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. While many in high-max wonât ever be free, some will eventually get out. The GED program aims to help a relatively small number of inmates who will eventually get out be better prepared for release. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sgt. Michael Stovall looks through a set of security gates on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The inmates on death row have been convicted of horrific crimes, but they generally cause few problems according to prison Warden Bruce Chatman. Possibly because many still have appeals pending and donât want to risk jeopardizing a chance, however slim, that their lives could be spared, he said. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Personal items sit on shelves of a prisoner's cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The 76 death row inmates live in four âpodsâ of neatly kept single-inmate cells measuring just 6½ by 9 feet and feature a bed, sink, toilet and shelves. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Shoes sit under a prisoner's bed in his cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Georgia has executed inmates by injection since October 2001, when the state Supreme Court ruled electrocution violated the stateâs ban on cruel and unusual punishment. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A prisoner on death row stands in his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. An electric chair that was used in 23 executions, a primitive-looking wooden armchair outfitted with leather straps, now sits unused in a closet off the area where witnesses sit for executions. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A cell sits empty on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Once a judge signs an execution order, the warden meets with the inmate to read him the order, give him a copy and ask if he has any questions. The inmate doesnât return to death row but instead is held in the prisonâs medical area under 24-hour watch by two guards for the roughly two weeks until his execution date. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A calendar hangs inside a prisoner's cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. On the day of the execution, the condemned inmate can receive visitors until about 3 p.m., when heâs given a medical checkup and then brought to a holding cell near the execution chamber around 5 p.m. Heâs given his final meal and has an opportunity to record a final statement. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sgt. Andrew Archie walks through death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The 76 death row inmates live in four âpodsâ of neatly kept single-inmate cells measuring just 6½ by 9 feet and feature a bed, sink, toilet and shelves. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Prison Warden Bruce Chatman talks with prisoners on death row as they walk in a yard at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. On the unusually warm early December morning, six men were in the yard that includes basketball and volleyball nets. Several took the opportunity to bend the wardenâs ear, asking about a backed-up toilet and people allowed to visit. Another asked: âHey, warden. Can you help us get a basketball? Itâs been over two months.â (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Correctional officers are reflected in a puddle as they stand guard outside a yard for death row inmates at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Inmates are allowed into the common area or into the outside yard in small groups of men who are known to get along. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Deputy Warden of Security Keith Eutsey, left, and Warden Bruce Chatman walk to the execution chamber along rows of barbed wire at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Death row inmates donât have far to go when their appeals run out. The chamber where lethal injections take place, a small room with a gurney, separated by a large pane of glass from the observation area, is on the grounds. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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My weekends are filled with hunting down bets and making sure they get to the bookie in time. Every morning, I scan the previous night's tickets for hits and make arrangements to get stamps from the bookie to cover the winners. It's a never-ending grind, but I enjoy it. It helps me do my time. Plus, I love to watch the games. It may just be on TV, but it gets as loud and hectic as any stadium in here.

As the ticket man, there's a lot of BS I have to deal with. Dudes in here aren't above running scams and trying to say they made this bet or took these points. That's why I write everything down and have multiple copies in case of a shakedown. Because when the cops stumble upon what they call "gambling paraphernalia," they will confiscate it in a heartbeat.

By lunchtime the winners are paid. I count out the stamps for payments and pass them out along with new tickets. Everything gets sent through a middleman I trust. Sometimes I use two or three guys to help me. It depends on how heavy the action is. But with the Super Bowl on the horizon the betting can get chaotic. Every inmate is trying to get in on it. They all want to make that once-in-a lifetime score and come up.

On game day, all the sports fans and gamblers are together, glued to ESPN, getting their bets ready. They do their own commentary, like they are the sportscasters, comparing notes, giving out their locks. Most of these dudes don't realize that gambling is a losing proposition. But in the boring and monotonous world of prison you need a little excitement. Some guys might hit every now and then — I like to to see the excitement in the convict's faces when they do. The majority of the time, though, their money is going straight in the bookies' pockets. It's a certified pipe dream.

As a runner, I get to put in my own bets for free. And when I win, it's like heaven in this hellhole — if only for a moment.

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