How Mattress Mack Became America’s Favorite Sports Bettor

Oct 29, 2019 01:21 PM EDT
Credit:

Darren Rovell. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale poses with a fan.

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 has been the key to survival for businesses today, Mattress Mack only sells five 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 man with just three stores in a single city could gross $200 million a year.

They come from as far as hundreds of miles away to buy their first mattress or 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.