The story of the Astros mega-bettor known as 'Mattress Mack'

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 04:  Honorees Jim McIngvale (L) and Linda McIngvale attend the Fifth Annual UNICEF Gala Houston 2018 at The Post Oak Houston on May 4, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for UNICEF)
Jim McIngvale (L) and wife Linda McIngvale attend a gala event in Houston. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for UNICEF)

Yahoo is partnering with The Action Network during the football season to bring you expert sports betting information and analysis. Story by Darren Rovell.

HOUSTON — After learning the mattress business from a man in Dallas, Jim McIngvale took a page out of another man’s playbook.

“There was this legend about this guy who was struggling selling tires,” McIngvale said. “So he put a tire around his head and called himself Tire Man. And his business took off.”

So, four decades ago, he came up with “Mattress Mack” on his own. Gone are the days of his crazy television commercials. And while social media and the internet have been the key to survival for businesses today, Mattress Mack only sells 5 percent of his mattresses and furniture on his website. He doesn’t tweet or post to Instagram.

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Yet spend a day in his main store — he has three in Houston — and you begin to understand how a man with just three stores in a single city could gross $200 million a year.

Customers come from hundreds of miles away to buy their first mattress or a piece of furniture at Gallery Furniture and to take a picture with Mack.

They want to shake his hand. They want to take a picture. And he wants to give them something — fruit, candy, an Astros hat.

Two years ago, he had a promotion that if the Astros won the World Series, furniture and mattresses above a certain price range would be rebated back to the customer for free. The Astros won and Mack had a party to give customers their money back.

When he did it again this year, the promotion was much bigger. Why? Because the Astros were always considered one of the favorites to win the title and after they acquired Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, their odds shortened even more.

But McIngvale said he couldn’t get insurance at that point. So the easiest thing to do was to bet on the Astros to win the World Series. If that happened, he could cover his $20 million worth of liability for the furniture and mattresses with his winnings.

Over the last month, Mack has flown back and forth to New Jersey, Mississippi and Nevada, getting down bets both on the Astros to win games and to win the series.

According to our count, he’s profited $1.47 million on four games, and he has bet nearly $11 million on the Astros to win it all to yield nearly $19 million if the they win Tuesday night. He also has a $1.29 million bet on Game 6 to win $750,000.

(The Action Network)
(The Action Network)

When you include tax liability, the truth is Mack likely won’t cover his losses. But when you include the publicity, it’s perfect. The Astros win, fans are happy, customers are happy and Mattress Mack becomes an even bigger legend in the community.

In the last month, Mattress Mack’s media coverage has had an equivalent advertising value of $6 million, according to Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing, a sponsorship evaluation firm.

At Houston’s Minute Maid Park, Mack can’t go five feet without taking a picture. Men, women and kids stop him. And once he stops, a line forms. He’s not just a retailer, he’s the most famous person in the ballpark who is not on the team.

If the Astros win Game 6, the lore of Mattress Mack will get another legendary update. He not only figures to see a bump in future business (good luck to those competing against him), but he’ll also write his name in gambling history.

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