A high-stakes bettor and avid sports fan, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale has always had a flair for the dramatic, grabbing headlines with his unorthodox sales techniques.
“My wife says I have a gambling problem,” the 70-year-old furniture magnate said during his appearance Friday on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “I say I have a promotion problem.”
It’s been a rough few weeks for Mattress Mack, who probably wishes he had hitched his horse to a different wagon after betting a combined $8.2 million on New England and Alabama. Both suffered crushing defeats with Buffalo eliminating the Patriots in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card game, which came on the heels of Alabama’s loss to Georgia in the College Football National Championship.
“I had $6.2 million on Alabama to win the National Championship and that didn’t work out,” said McIngvale. “And I had a $2-million bet on the New England Patriots that I bought a couple months ago for them to win the Super Bowl at 24-1.”
Losing that much money would make most people sick to their stomach, but this isn’t Mack’s first rodeo. “It’s a hedge bet so you live to play another day. It took me about two seconds to get over each bet.”
Remarkably, the one-two punch of New England and Alabama bowing out five days apart wasn’t even the worst loss of his gambling career.
“The Astros were playing the Braves [last fall],” said McIngvale, longtime owner of Gallery Furniture in his native Houston. “If they had won the World Series, they were -140 going into the World Series, I would have won $36 million.”
Mack’s seven-figure bets often accompany sales pitches at his store including a promotion that ran in 2017, offering free mattresses to customers if his beloved Astros won the World Series. Though some would question its validity in the wake of their highly-publicized sign-stealing scandal, the Astros did precisely that, earning their first (and so far, only) title by beating the Dodgers in seven games. “When the Astros won in 2017, [I won] about $20 million,” recalls McIngvale. “I had to pay it back in mattresses, but the PR and goodwill will last forever. It’s a good promotional item and gets people in the store.”
McIngvale, who has sold mattresses to everyone from former presidents (George H. W. Bush) to Olympic gold medalists (Mary Lou Retton), wasn’t offered a buyout for either bet, though it sounds like he wouldn’t have taken it anyway. “They don’t much do that. The ones that take the big bets like Caesars don’t want to do buyouts,” Mack explained. “Once I make the bet, I’m going to ride it.”
Some would call that kind of wagering reckless (and they’d be right), but with three stores operating throughout greater Houston, there must be a method to Mack’s madness.