There were plenty of people celebrating inside Minute Maid Park when the Houston Astros clinched their second World Series title but perhaps non more so than Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mack. Prior to the match, he had the honour of throwing the first pitch and merely three hours later he won the rather staggering amount of $75m, believed to be the largest successful wager in sports betting history.
Given that McIngvale is a passionate Astros fan, it was hard to ask for a more perfect evening. It would be wrong to assume that he was simply $75m richer after the contest, however, as the Astros second World Series title also ended up costing him a lot of money.
The Winning Bet
In total, Mattress Mack wagered $10m of his own money on the Astros, placed across several bets. The largest single bet was placed at Caesars Sportsbook totalling $3m at 10/1 odds. Caesars themselves do not operate in Texas due to state laws but they are active in neighbouring Louisiana. This meant Mack drove across the border and sat outside a Subway sandwich shop as he dropped this cool $3m via their app.
Other bets were placed at a later date and, by July, the price on the Astros had dropped to 5/1. The remaining $7m wagered was split across $1m and $2m bets at Barstool Sports, BetMGM, Wynn, Unibet and Betfred. It is likely these bookies were unwilling to accept larger wagers which is why Mack was forced to place his money at several different places.
You may wonder what would possess someone to bet so much money on one team to win one sporting event. It was not as though the Astros were some 10,000/1 outsiders either so there was no way to win a huge sum from a small stake. Well, if he hadn’t it could have proved a very costly event indeed.
Hedging His Bets
Now, $10m is a lot to have riding on a sporting bet but a big part of the reason Mack did this was simply to cover his own back. As you may have guessed from his nickname, McIngvale sells beds (and other home furniture) at his three Texas-based Gallery Furniture stores. One unique aspect of his chain of stores is that he regularly runs promotions tied to some sort of American sporting event. Prior to the Astros winning the World Series he ran a promotion offering customers a full refund on any $3,000+ mattress or recliner if the Bengals won the 2022 Super Bowl.
His more recent Astros promotion was similar. With this deal, any customer spending over $3,000 on a Tempur-Pedic mattress and/or made-in-America furniture got double their money back if the Astros were victorious. Due to this offer, Mack stood to lose a large sum of money if the Astros did indeed lift the World Series as his stores are popular and enjoy a lot of sales, especially when such deals are on.
So, there was a large strategic element to the bet and it was not him simply risking his money as an ordinary punter would. It is a marketing approach that does seem to work for him as he has done it several times in the past. In this particular case, he really benefitted too as total refunds were not nearly as high as $75m. One report stated there were about 7,000 qualifying customers. If you estimated an average spend of $4,000 this means total refunds totalled 7,000 x $8000 = $56m.
We are unlikely to ever know the exact maths but it is safe to say that Mack was left with a very tidy net win; certainly that’s what it appears if his post-game celebrations were anything to go by. As an additional benefit, he also had a lot of extremely happy customers who will no doubt be tempted to come back to his stores in future. There are many customers that see it as a very low-risk form of betting, if they are in the market for a high-end mattress anyway.
Not a Guaranteed Money-Maker
Before any other companies get the idea of copying Mattress Mack, there are times when his deals can backfire. For the aforementioned 2022 Superbowl deal, he placed a $9.5m bet on the Bengals which would have paid out $16.2m, at the time the biggest wager ever accepted by Caesars Sportsbook. The Bengals lost, however, meaning that his $9.5m went down the drain (or, more precisely, into the Caesars coffers!). Although $20m of sales were made during the time of promotion, some of these sales would have occurred anyway. Additionally, sales revenue is not pure winnings, actual winnings is likely to be somewhere roughly in the region of 30%.
So, while Mack likely gained several million in sales directly thanks to the promotion, this number was less than the money lost on the bet. His far-from-celebratory post-match comments only confirmed this as he said he would just need to shrug it off and carry on as normal the following day. Being a true businessman though he added he was most disappointed about not being able to refund the many customers that took part in the deal.
His approach, therefore, is not win-win and he is not able to completely cover his liabilities with his sports bets. Typically for him to be a winner, the sports bet needs to be a success unless it is an outcome he has managed to back at long odds. In the case of the Bengals, the Cincinnati outfit were trading at just 7/4 when the first bet was placed forcing him to stump up a very large stake just to get a sufficient return.
A Serial Bettor
Mattress Mack calls his unconventional approach “a lot sexier than liability insurance”. His method of betting huge sums on sporting events though does not simply serve as an insurance alternative though, but it feeds his desire to gamble. Even by his own admission, Mack has confessed that gambling is one of his faults and he regularly bets big on the likes of NFL and MLB. He has a very mixed record too including many high-profile wins and losses. His biggest loss came in the 2019 World Series as McIngvale put support behind his home-town team, the Astros, to the tune of $17m, only to see them lose to the Washington Nationals.
He is definitely a character to keep your eye on as his next promotion and related sports bet might well be bigger than the last following all the attention his $75m windfall received.