This has been a weird, unpredictable college basketball season, but what has been predictable is that Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale placed yet another whopper of a bet. And with just four teams remaining in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, he has a chance to win big. The furniture store owner known for making massive bets on championship sporting events has $1 million riding on the Houston Cougars to win it all. If they do, he will bank $9 million.
So far, things are going exactly how McIngvale wanted them to go. Houston has made the Final Four and is just two wins away from claiming the title. Now, to be fair, maybe things haven’t played out exactly how McIngvale wanted, as Houston has to play Baylor in the semi-finals and then probably Gonzaga in the finals. He was likely rooting for those two schools – the two clear top dogs in the country – to have been eliminated earlier, but hey, the important thing is that Houston is still playing.
Because McIngvale lives in Houston, he can’t place sports bets from home, so he flew to Colorado, logged onto the DraftKings sportsbook app, plunked down his $1 million bet (you and I would not be able to just logon and do the same – DraftKings knows McIngvale and gives him special consideration).
“Mattress Mack” has made these types of bets before, but he’s not just a rich guy risking tons of money for the thrill. Yes, he knows he could lose a bunch, but there is a method to the (March) madness. He often runs promotions at his store, Gallery Furniture, around the same time as these sporting events, in which if a certain team wins or covers the spread, anyone who spent at least $3,000 at his store gets their purchase refunded.
He bets the same side of the promotion, effectively turning it into a hedge. Even if he ends up a net loser, he sees the loss as a marketing cost.
“On the soft side, the brand-building it does is extraordinary,” McIngvale told ESPN.com.
Earlier this year, he ran the promotion, refunding customers if the underdog Tampa Bay Buccaneers covered the spread against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay cruised thanks to their defense, winning 31-9. Thus, Gallery Furniture customers were very happy. McIngvale, though, had bet $3.46 million on the Buccaneers +3.5 and therefore profited $2.7 million on his wager. Thus, even though he gave away lots of furniture, he might have come out ahead.
McIngvale does not have a promo going for March Madness, but before Houston made it to the Final Four, he said it was still a consideration.
“We were thrilled about the Tampa Bay Super Bowl promotion and the thousands of dollars’ worth of positive PR and comments from the customers and goodwill,” he said.
McIngvale probably doesn’t need the goodwill. He is a local legend, even opening his store during the devastating winter storms so that people in need could have shelter.