How Much Did Mattress Mack Bet On The Houston Astros

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Houston Mattress Magnate bets millions on Astros to win World Series

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People in Houston need no introduction to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who owns Gallery Furniture in Houston. A lot of sports fans may not either, as he’s made quite a name for himself by associating his business with both the highs and lows of the Houston Astros over the years.

I don’t know much about his business at large, but he’s been on our radar for several years. Back in 2014, when the Astros were absolutely terrible, he promised a customers who spent a certain amount of money on furniture at his store a refund if the Astros didn’t lose 100 games that year. They lost only 92 games and Mattress Mack had to pay out $4 million or so in refunds. In 2017 he did a similar thing except this time he offered big refunds if the Astros won the World Series. Which they did, of course, which cost Mattress Mack around $12 million.

Mattress Mack is at it again this year. He’s been offering customers who spend over $3,000 on stuff a refund if the Astros once again win the World Series, as they’re favored to do.

One might think that this is irresponsible, but you probably don’t become a successful furniture salesman if you’re not savvy about such things. I mean, without even knowing anything about the guy or listening to him explain himself, it’s a very safe assumption that the guy simply — and correctly — figured that his offer was great, mostly free advertising, that it increased sales volume and that it might’ve inspired people on the fence to buy something. His margins, along with some well-thought-out conditions on the refund offer, no doubt ensures that his “crazy” promotion will do more good than harm for his business.

Oh, and he’s getting some insurance for his offer too. In the from of laying bets on the Astros in order to mitigate his losses should Houston win the World Series. From ESPN:

A Houston furniture salesman, attempting to mitigate millions of dollars in potential refunds from a promotion, placed one of the largest bets ever taken by a U.S. bookmaker on Tuesday at a Mississippi sportsbook.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, bet $3.5 million on the Astros to win the World Series at the DraftKings sportsbook at Scarlet Pearl casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. At +220 odds, the wager would pay a net $7.7 million if the Astros win the World Series.

And he’s continuing to lay bets, which he notes is much easier this time around than it was in 2017 given how many states have legalized sports gambling in the past year or so. The story gives a good look at how bets that size compare to the usual action at sports books and makes it clear that Mattress Mack is not dabbling here. It’s probably also worth noting that, in addition to mitigating the refund offer, the story of his big bets are some good P.R. for his image as a wheelin’-dealin’ Texas businessman, and that likewise helps his brand a good deal too.

I’m not sure if it’s too late to get in on the refund offer, but if you’re in the market for an expensive mattress, I highly recommend the Tempurpdic LuxeAdapt. Life changer, man. Life changer.

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This Day in Transaction History: Orioles sign Kevin Brown

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As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.

On this day in 1995, the Baltimore Orioles signed free agent starter Kevin Brown to a one year deal after he spent the previous seven years with the Rangers. It was a forgettable year for the 30-year-old as he went 10-9 with a 3.60 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings of work. After the season, Brown inked a three-year, $12.6 million contract with the Florida Marlins.

Brown’s first year with the Marlins was incredible: He went 17-11 with a 1.89 ERA and a 159/33 K/BB ratio in 233 innings. Along with making the NL All-Star team, he finished 22 nd in MVP balloting and was a runner-up to John Smoltz in Cy Young voting. His career was finally taking off.

There has been some laughably bad awards voting, especially before Sabermetrics became popular. Many cite the 2005 AL Cy Young vote as a premium example, as Bartolo Colon won the award simply because he won 21 games. His 3.48 ERA trailed other starters like Johan Santana, Mark Buehrle, and Kevin Millwood. By Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, Santana was the clear best candidate at 7.2 ahead of Buehrle’s 4.8 and Colon’s 4.0.

The 1996 NL Cy Young vote wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still bad. Smoltz won the award on the back of a 24-8 record despite having an ERA more than a full run higher than Brown’s. Smoltz registered many more strikeouts (276 to 159) and pitched 20 2/3 more innings. Brown had an adjusted ERA – which is to say, ERA adjusted for league and park effects set such that 100 is average – of 215, much better than Smoltz’s 149. In fact, Brown’s 215 ERA+ ranks as the 27 th -best pitching season in baseball history among all starters who accrued enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Brown’s 1996 performance is sandwiched between Hall of Famer Walter Johnson’s 1918 and ’19 performances.

In 1997, the year he helped the Marlins win the World Series, Brown authored a no-hitter against the Giants on June 10. He walked none and struck out seven on 98 pitches. The lone blemish was a Marvin Bernard hit by pitch with two outs in the eighth inning. Interestingly, it’s one of 15 no-hitters done on fewer than 100 pitches.

A common theme of my “This Day in Transaction History” posts is underappreciated players and that is certainly the case for Brown, as the 1996 NL Cy Young voting showed. Some of that was warranted as Brown was named in the Mitchell Report for having bought human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin, though that was believed to have occurred in the early 2000’s. Brown was also cantankerous, exemplified by two incidents: one in which he broke his hand in anger by punching a wall in 2004 with the Yankees, and another in 2006 when he allegedly brandished a firearm at his neighbor during an argument.

Brown retired with 211 wins in his career along with 2,397 strikeouts and a 3.28 ERA over 3,256 1/3 innings. He was a six-time All-Star who twice won the ERA title. He also racked up 68.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference. Among the 75 Hall of Fame pitchers who logged at least 1,000 career innings, Brown’s WAR would rank 29 th , just behind Don Sutton and ahead of pitchers like Jim Palmer, Smoltz, and Bob Feller.

The selectively moralistic Baseball Writers Association of America gave Brown only 2.1 percent of the vote when he became eligible in 2011, dropping off the ballot immediately. Andy Pettitte, by comparison, was also linked to performance-enhancing drugs and has similar career numbers to Brown yet received 11.3 percent of the vote in the last election, up from 9.9 percent in 2019, his first year on the ballot. Brown, like Pettitte, wasn’t the most likeable guy on the planet, but he certainly deserved the 1996 NL Cy Young Award and he deserved better than one-and-done for the Hall of Fame.

Mattress Mack’s balance sheet: $13 million lost on Astros evens out

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale has done it both ways – buying insurance and making bets – to ensure his financial well-being surrounding his Astros-related “Win it All” mattress promotions the last three years.

Betting, he said Thursday, is a lot more fun.

“Insurance is bland,” McIngvale said, laughing, during a break from greeting customers at his Gallery Furniture store in north Houston. “Buying insurance is like watching concrete dry.”

McIngvale over the last month has been a central story in the burgeoning business of legal sports betting through wagers on the Astros to win the World Series, traveling to sports books in Mississippi and New Jersey to make bets between trips to Astros playoff games.

Potential proceeds from McIngvale’s wagers were hedges to cover the expenses of his “Win it All” promotion, in which customers who purchased mattresses or bases totaling more than $3,000 would get their money back if the Astros won the World Series.

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He estimated that he made about $13 million in bets in Nevada, Mississippi and New Jersey, which would have generated enough profit enough to cover the estimated $20 million to $25 million he would have had to pay back to customers had the Astros taken the series from the Washington Nationals.

Since the Astros lost in seven games, the sports books will keep his $13 million in wagers, but McIngvale will keep his mattress proceeds.

“I wish the Astros had won, because all the happy customers would tell their friends for the next 20 years about the mattress they got,” he said. “It’s all about the customers.

“I’m devastated that the Astros didn’t win. They left too many men on base, but if you had said before the season that you’d be playing at Minute Maid Park in Game 7 of the World Series, everybody would have taken that.”

Thanks to his gambling hedges, which he made with the help of Las Vegas gambling adviser Anthony Curtis and a college professor in Maryland who daily crunched numbers to determine his financial exposure as the betting lines changed, McIngvale said he would have come out more or less financially the same regardless of the Astros’ fate.

An Astros win, he said, would have been worth $20 million in word of mouth publicity for Gallery Furniture. Still, the month of October “was quite a run. It was a thrilling month.”

“I live in Houston, the oil wildcatters’ capital of the world,” he said. “A lot of Houstonians like myself have a high tolerance risk. I’ve always thought of my life like Columbus. He took a risk, so why not? High risk, high reward.”

By the end of the World Series, he said, even his wife was on board with his risk taking.

“I dream these things up, and my wife usually hates them,” he said. “But after the Astros lost Tuesday night, she was upset and said ‘I’ve got $2 million. Let’s bet it on the Astros,’ and I said, ‘Now you’re getting with the program.

“I wasn’t able to do it, but I did bet a million on them Wednesday (before Game 7).”

Curtis, the publisher of LasVegasAdvisor.com, worked with bettor Frank Betti and with Steve Heston, a finance professor at the University of Maryland, to advise McIngvale on obtaining the most favorable odds and deciding how much risk to take to cover his potential mattress refunds.

He said McIngvale’s high profile could have a significant impact on the growth of gambling markets as an alternative to traditional insurance.

“You have a savvy businessman who knew enough to find an alternative to regular insurance that he was outpriced on,” Curtis said. “This will indicate to others how the gambling markets can be used.”

McIngvale attended games in Houston and in Washington and was greeted with signs urging the Astros to “win it for Mattress Mack.”

“I was told that I might get criticized for making all these big wagers to support the Astros, but I didn’t get a bit of criticism,” he said. “I think people are fine as long as I bet with legal sports books. It made a lot of news, and it made some people who don’t watch baseball who wouldn’t do so otherwise.”

McIngvale’s sponsorship agreement with the Astros will continue next year, so it’s not out of the question that he will stage a similar promotion.

His 2017 promotion generated $15 million in mattress sales, plus related sales that were not subject to refunds, so it’s not inconceivable that he could top this year’s $20 million-plus total next year if he repeats the promotion.

This year, however, was unique with the Astros’ season-long dominance of the American League West, the trade deadline acquisition of pitcher Zack Greinke and pitcher Justin Verlander’s no-hitter on Labor Day weekend, all of which boosted sales.

But as November dawns, the season is over, and it’s back to work to get ready for the holiday shopping season.

“It’s back to grind it out retail and dealing with customers every day,” he said. “It was fun going to the games, and it’s kind of a letdown now that the season is over. But I’m looking forward to

April when it starts all over again.

“I had a customer call today and said he wanted to thank me for dong the promotion because even though he didn’t get a free mattress, he thought it was great and thanked me for doing something for Houston. That makes it worth the whole thing.”

David Barron

David Barron reports on sports media, college football and Olympic sports for the Houston Chronicle. He joined the Houston Chronicle in 1990 after stints at the Dallas bureau of United Press International (1984-90), the Waco Tribune-Herald (1978-84) and the Tyler Morning Telegraph (1975-78). He has been a contributor to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football since 1980, serving as high school editor from 1984 through 2000 and as Managing Editor from 1990 through 2004. A native of Tyler, he is a graduate of John Tyler High School, Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Austin.

Houston-area furniture store owner ‘Mattress Mack’ lost $13M betting on the Astros

Houston-area furniture store owner ‘Mattress Mack’ lost $13M betting on the Astros

Houston-area furniture store owner ‘Mattress Mack’ lost $13M betting on the Astros

By Charles Curtis October 31, 2019 9:44 am

By Charles Curtis | October 31, 2019 9:44 am

If you thought losing $11 million on the Houston Astros would bother the man known as “Mattress Mack,” you’d be wrong.

The man who owns Gallery Furniture in the Houston area — his real name is Jim McIngvale — has spent a lot of money betting on the Astros. Not just a few bucks here and there. Through Game 3 of the World Series, it was something like $10 million.

And now that the Stros have lost to the Washington Nationals, we have a total tally. Per The Action Network, if he had won, he would have netted about $25 million.

But the lost was costly:

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, a 68-year-old furniture mogul and philanthropist, told The Action Network he lost “more than $13 million” in bets after the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros, 6-2, in Game 7 of the World Series. …

McIngvale had spent the past month betting millions on his beloved Astros to win the World Series as a means of hedging a season-long promotion running at his furniture stores that promised to refund all purchases of more than $3,000 if the Astros brought home the title.

Mack has said his liabilities for the promotion are north of $20 million.

It’s quite a way to hedge, and a fun one at that. So in a funny way, he did win because he would have had to refund a bunch of furniture. It’s brilliant.

Charles Curtis

Charles is a writer for For The Win. He once dropped an easy foul ball at Shea Stadium and was booed by 35,000 angry Mets fans (and hasn’t recovered from it).

‘Mattress Mack’: The man who wants to bet $10 million on the Astros

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale explains why he started placing large bets on the Houston Astros to win the World Series, starting in 2017. (1:58)

A Houston furniture salesman, facing millions of dollars in refunds if the Astros win the World Series, has enlisted the help of two high-level gamblers from Las Vegas to find an American bookmaker willing to take a giant bet.

Gallery Furniture in Houston is offering to refund purchases of mattresses costing $3,000 or more, if the Astros win the World Series. Store owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale says sales spiked when the Astros picked up starting pitcher Zack Greinke at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, and then again over Labor Day weekend, when Justin Verlander tossed a no-hitter.

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"The customers aren’t dumb," McIngvale told ESPN this week "They know what’s going on. They’re hedging themselves as well."

Now, as Houston prepares to enter the postseason as consensus favorites to win the World Series, Mattress Mack is staring at a hefty liability, one so big that he’s looking to hedge his potential losses with a bet upward of $10 million on the Astros.

With just a few days left in the regular season, the Astros are around +220 to win the World Series at most sportsbooks. If McIngvale is able to get $10 million down on the Astros, he would be in position to win more than $20 million to help pay for mattress refunds.

"I’ve placed hedge bets [on the Astros] at certain places, with still a few more to go," McIngvale said. "It’s all kind of in flux. It’s like the stock market. You have to shop for the best price."

The shopping process is ongoing, and it has been an ordeal, both frustrating and enlightening for the 68-year-old McIngvale. He’s partnered with Anthony Curtis and Frank Betti, two well-known Las Vegas sharps, who have been communicating with bookmakers in Nevada and New Jersey and scoping out which places will take the biggest bet at the best price.

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Sportsbooks maintain a much bigger house edge on futures markets, like the odds to win the World Series, than on single-game wagers. Even so, Curtis said multiple bookmakers have declined to take their action on the Astros. And the other shops willing to take their action so far took much less than they wanted to bet.

"The bookmakers are being offered a very good gamble, and they don’t want to take it," said Curtis, who owns Huntington Press Publishing and runs the popular website LasVegasAdvisor.com.

This week, Las Vegas veteran bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point sportsbook did take a $200,000 bet from McIngvale on the Astros at +250. McIngvale and his team, however, are eyeing a New Jersey bookmaker in hopes of placing a much bigger bet, potentially upwards of $10 million.

FanDuel, which operates out of the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, has offered to take up to $10 million on the Astros from McIngvale, according to Curtis, but first must get approval from the state regulators. In early September, FanDuel filed a formal request with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The decision was still pending as of Tuesday.

"It seems to me that some of the places in New Jersey — let’s put it this way — are a little bit more aggressive, and willing to take larger amounts than some of the guys are out west," McIngvale said. "There are new kids in town."

The sports betting landscape in the U.S. has evolved dramatically since McIngvale first began his sports-themed promotions.

In 2015, after receiving assurance from two employees who were Peyton Manning fans, he offered to refund purchases if the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. McIngvale expected to do only $2-$3 million in sales during the promotion that ran for 10 days.

"Well, we did about $9 million in volume," McIngvale recalled. "We sold out of furniture on the Saturday night before the Super Bowl and had to close the store."

McIngvale did not place any hedge bets that year and went into the Super Bowl needing the Broncos to win to avoid refunding $9 million in purchases.

‘Mattress Mack’ places $3.5 million bet on Astros to win World Series

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale explains why he started placing large bets on the Houston Astros to win the World Series, starting in 2017. (1:58)

A Houston furniture salesman, attempting to mitigate millions of dollars in potential refunds from a promotion, placed one of the largest bets ever taken by a U.S. bookmaker on Tuesday at a Mississippi sportsbook.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, bet $3.5 million on the Houston Astros to win the World Series at the DraftKings sportsbook at Scarlet Pearl casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. At +220 odds, the wager would pay a net $7.7 million if the Astros win the World Series.

McIngvale wired the $3.5 million to the Scarlet Pearl on Monday and flew from Houston to Biloxi. He said Tuesday that the betting slip was in his pocket and joked that he’d probably keep it in his wallet, "which is secured by a bunch of rubber bands."

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On Thursday, McIngvale was in New Jersey to place another large wager on the Astros to win it all. He bet $1.5 million at the same +220 odds at the FanDuel Sportsbook at The Meadowlands. The wager would win $3.3 million and is believed to be the largest legal online wager in the state’s brief sports betting history.

McIngvale also recently placed a $200,000 World Series bet on the Astros +250 at the South Point in Las Vegas and has additional wagers for undisclosed amounts with Nevada bookmakers Caesars, MGM, Treasure Island and Circa Sports. He’s shopping around for more, too.

McIngvale’s $3.5 million wager at the Scarlet Pearl is nearly equal to how much was bet on baseball at Mississippi sportsbooks in June, July and August combined.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale places his $3.5 million bet at the sportsbook at Scarlet Pearl Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Courtesy of DraftKings

"I think it’s the biggest [bet] that’s ever happened in Mississippi," DraftKings chief revenue officer and co-founder Matt Kalish said.

Not only is it believed to be the biggest bet ever in Mississippi, it’s also easily one of the largest wagers ever reported in the United States — and McIngvale might not be finished.

McIngvale has been in communication with multiple sportsbooks in New Jersey, inquiring about making large wagers. In early September, bookmaker FanDuel, after discussions with McIngvale, requested approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to accept a bet of greater than $5 million on the Astros.

"I’m just amazed how much DraftKings and Scarlet Pearl took, and they didn’t blink an eye," McIngvale said. "That’s pretty rare in the sports betting business in the United States for someone to take three and [a] half million dollars."

For much of the baseball season, McIngvale has been offering to refund mattress-related purchases of $3,000 or more if the Astros win the World Series. He ran a similar promotion in 2017 and refunded more than $10 million in purchases when Houston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the franchise’s first World Series. That year, McIngvale placed more than $1 million in bets on the Astros with Las Vegas bookmakers, helping him limit his exposure from the promotion. This year, with more states offering sports betting, he has expanded options, including Mississippi and New Jersey.

"It’s a whole different game in 2019," McIngvale told ESPN last week, as he was shopping around for the best price and highest limits.

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While a few $1 million bets regularly show up on the Super Bowl, multimillion-dollar wagers — especially on the World Series — are extremely rare:

• In 2002, longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Robert Walker says he took a $4.8 million money-line bet on the St. Louis Rams to beat the New England Patriots straight-up in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots upset the Rams 20-17.

• In 2018, an unnamed bettor at an MGM sportsbook in Las Vegas placed a $3 million money-line bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. The Eagles pulled off the upset, and the bettor won a net $4.5 million.

• In 1995, veteran Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro says he took a $2.4 million money-line wager from prominent investor Carl Icahn on the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers (1-8) to beat the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Icahn won a net $300,000 when the 49ers blew out the Chargers.

The Astros were down to +210 in DraftKings’ odds to win the World Series after taking McIngvale’s bet. The Dodgers are the second favorite at +260.

Before McIngvale’s wager, more money had been bet on the New York Yankees to win the World Series at DraftKings than had been bet on any other team. The Yankees are +425.

"This does change the picture for us a little bit," Kalish said Tuesday. "This will make the Astros the biggest liability."

McIngvale, 68, is a beloved figure in Houston. He opened his furniture store to those in need during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and says he always roots for the Astros regardless of his position.

He declined to characterize how big of a liability he has on this year’s promotion.

Gallery Furniture’s liability from the promotion surpassed $15 million this week and was still growing, McIngvale said.

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