The Olmec people had already been playing their culturally important ball game for hundreds of years. The Maya picked up on this spectacular event and developed their own version. Instead of I-shaped courts, theirs were mostly rectangular, but sometimes had higher walls and hoops. The rules remained primarily the same. No feet or hands could touch the ball, it was played in teams, and the struggle went on between the two teams using a hard rubber ball.
The idea that the losers would go on to provide bodies for sacrifice fell apart a bit once more Mayan glyphs were translated. Instead, the winners enjoyed the privilege of moving on to Tamoanchan right away without struggling anymore on the Earthly plane of existence of going through Xibalba. Although some historians argue against this practice, glyphs near the game fields tell otherwise. One of the most popular Poc-a-Toc locations in Chichen Itza clearly shows the winning captain going under the blade. Quite frankly, it makes sense. To the ancient Maya, a direct trip to Tamoanchan would feel like winning a massive lottery.
Of course, this did not happen all the time. Teams gained followers who would come out to support them in their quest for a win much like fans do for modern sports. If the Maya kept killing the winners, soon they would have had no one to play the game. Suffice it to say that it was an important part of their religious and cultural identity.
Not all Maya religious activities were so brutal or disturbing. They guided children into safe wells to talk with the gods, offered gold, shells, and ceremonial goods, celebrated arranged marriages, and frequently had dances with costumes and symbolic props.
They mysteries surrounding the religious beliefs and practices of the Maya people are solved only by looking back at the books, carvings, paintings, and artefacts they left behind. Unfortunately, due to the efforts by the Spanish Bishop and others who came over to assimilate the ancient civilization into their own through conquest, many details have been lost forever.