Mattress Mack: The Casino.org Q&A
Texas furniture proprietor Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale’s last visit to Las Vegas was unlike any other in history. On Thursday night, Mack boarded a private jet with a $30 million check from Caesars Sportsbook. A $3 million bet at 10-to-1 odds on his hometown Houston Astros to win the World Series, placed on May 13, made him the largest winner of a single sports wager in US history.
But that literally wasn’t even the half of it. The 71-year-old also walked away with $10 million in cash, his winnings from a $2 million bet with BetMGM, and winnings from $8 million in bets with other sportsbooks – including Barstool Sports, Wynn, Unibet, and Betfred – for a whopping total payout of $75 million.
Casino.org caught up with Mattress Mack by phone back at his Houston store, Gallery Furniture, on Saturday morning.
Q: Congratulations, Mack! How does it feel to have a check written in your name for $30 million?
A: Thanks! It was fast and furious. But I also got the most Caesars rewards points of anybody ever. Currently I have like – oh, let’s see here – 11,365,000 Caesars reward credits in my account. So I got some free hotel rooms and free meals coming to me!
Q: Does it blow your mind thinking that you single-handedly dented the company’s profitability in the fourth quarter?
A: Caesars is great people. I met a lot of them the other day. They don’t make them any better in the sports betting business. They’re willing to take a big bet and take a stand. So I take my hat off to Caesars, being the best betting partner somebody like me, who bets a lot of money, could ever have. They’ve been great to me and then I went to MGM and they gave me the check for $10 million. Then I took the $10 million home in cash, so that was quite a ride.
Q: I read that you needed a wheelbarrow just to get it across the tarmac to your private jet home.
A: That’s right, and the wheelbarrow tire went flat from all the weight. I never saw that much money in my life.
Q: How does it feel to be at the center of all this publicity?
A: You know, this is all about promoting Gallery Furniture, promoting the business, and having fun with the Houston Astros. I got lucky and won that big bet because I had the best baseball team on the planet as my pick. So thanks to Houston Astros, I got a lot of publicity and we’re selling more furniture, and the whole idea is to make it better for the customers and help this store grow.
Q: Do you remember the first bet you ever placed in your life?
A: Yeah. Me and all my little friends used to pitch pennies, nickels, quarters, and half dollars in junior high and high school. We used to do that a lot and play poker a lot. It was nothing serious. My first big bet was on the 2005 Rose Bowl. I think I bet about $100,000 on UT to win, and they won.
Q: Did that embolden you to keep going, or would it not have mattered if you lost?
A: It certainly didn’t hurt that they won. It was the biggest win I’d had for a long time.
Q: Did your family or anybody close to you ever express concern about your sports betting?
A: My wife still gets nervous and sweats these games. But she understands it’s a promotion and it’s about making the business better and giving the customers a reason to buy here.
Q: You say you give back most of your winnings to your customers. How much of the $75 million will they get?
A: I think we’ll give back $72 or $73 million. If you bought and took possession of a $3,000 mattress or recliner before the series, you get your money back. We aim to make everybody happy in Houston, and that objective certainly worked out with this particular promotion.
Q: Do you have a betting strategy?
A: My strategy is to pick a live underdog, get a big price on futures, and see if you can carry it through to the end. I’m always picking teams that are slightly underdogs, where I can get +150, +200 on them, and it makes it a whole lot easier to hedge these furniture promotions. Of course, my strategy doesn’t always work. Last year, I bet $10 or $12 million on the Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl.
Q: But you didn’t really lose it when your team lost, because you also didn’t end up having to refund the $20 million in sales you made on that promotion.
A: That’s right. There’s really no downside for us at this point. And there’s no downside for the customers. They can’t lose. The worst that’s going happen, if they lose the proposition, is they get the mattress they already paid for. So they have no downside. It’s all upside, and whatever I can do to provide a better experience for the customers, we win.
Q: You can’t bet in casinos anymore because you would probably draw a crowd. But did you used to?
A: I used to play a few casino games, but I find that a lot more stressful than sports wagering. In sports wagering, you can make somewhat of an intelligent decision depending on how much information you have or you can get the best of it. It’s hard to get to get the best of any casino games.
Q: What’s the best advice you can give to sports wagerers reading this?
A: Find some live underdogs. You have to get some return on your money. The Astros were not a good bet in the World Series because you had to lay 200 to get 100, but they were great bet at 10-1 or 12-1 in the futures. I understand that futures bets are very profitable for casinos and they win nine out of 10 of them. Good for them. They have to have profitable ventures, too. But if you’ve got a team you believe in and they come in, you hit big. If not, you go on the next one. I have a memory like a goldfish. I don’t remember any wins or losses. I just go to the next one.
Q: With all the gambling you’ve done in life, would you say that you’re ahead at this point?
A: I would certainly say so. Otherwise, I wouldn’t keep doing it (laughs)!