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The Real Lesson From Mattress Mack’s Super Bowl Bet

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Houston furniture store owner Jim ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale has become famous for his big sports bets.
  • He often uses the sports betting marketplace to hedge the potential financial hit from promotions at his store.
  • The bigger story this year might be his decision to bet in Colorado with a sportsbook that isn’t even available in Nevada.

Jim ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale is fairly well known to sports bettors but here’s his story: he’s a Houston furniture store owner known for making big wagers, usually on major sporting events. Obviously he enjoys the action but he also makes these big bets in an effort to hedge against the financial downside of in-store promotions.

This all makes a lot more sense if I explain it as we go along. As the excellent David Purdum reported on ESPN McIngvale has placed one of the largest wagers on Super Bowl LV to date–$3.46 million on Tampa Bay at +3.5. He bought the extra half point so he ended up laying -127 meaning he’ll cash a ticket for $2.72 million if the Bucs win or cover. ‘Mattress Mack’ has an ulterior motive in all of this:

McIngvale routinely uses the betting market to mitigate risk on sales promotions at his furniture store. He had more than $11 million in play on the 2019 World Series between the between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, including a $3.5 million futures bet on the Astros that he placed with DraftKings in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The Astros came up short, losing to the Nationals in seven games.

Purdum also explains what McIngvale is hedging this year:

This year, customers at McIngvale’s store who spend $3,000 or more on a new mattress will get their money back if the Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

He’s become something of a celebrity in the sports betting world and another in the long line of interesting characters found only in this milieu. Former Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook manager and now DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello is happy to take McIngvale’s seven figure wagers:

“Mack has been a great customer and is someone we have history with after taking his sizeable wager on the World Series a couple seasons ago.”

Here’s ‘Mattress Mack’s’ handicap on the big game:

“Tampa Bay is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and led by the greatest football player of all time in Tom Brady, so I’m betting big on the Bucs who have overcome tough matchups throughout this postseason.”


Another one of my ‘must read’ sports betting writers–Josh Applebaum at VSIN.com–used McIngvale’s big wager as a ‘teachable moment’ to impart knowledge on the value of buying the half point:

Mack’s decision to pay the extra juice in order to get the hook is important. We all know that 3 is the most important key number in football. So if the Bucs end up losing by 3, which is the most common margin of victory, you want to be able to cash with the extra half point. However, the Bucs + 3.5 is no longer available across the market as we’ve seen the line fall down to 3. Most books are juicing the Chiefs -3 up to -115 but seem unwilling to actually move to 3.5. So what does this mean? If you like the Bucs you might as well wait and see if it goes to 3.5 between now and kickoff. If it doesn’t, you could do what Mack did and buy the extra half point in order to get the hook. 

Buying points is age-old debate among sports bettors. Recreational bettors love buying points because they feel safer and more secure knowing they are getting a better number and, therefore, have a greater shot at covering. However, buying points is typically frowned upon by experienced bettors. If you are constantly buying points, it means you are paying expensive prices that will eat away at your winnings. Buying an extra half point may save you every once in a while, but over the long haul it won’t make as big of a difference as you think. One of the only scenarios where buying points can really be “worth it” is around key numbers, like in this case by taking the Bucs up to + 3.5. In this situation, it’s also much more palatable due to the current juice price. The Chiefs are -3 (-115) at most books with the Bucs + 3 (-105). So buying an extra half point when you’re starting at -105 (or even + 100 at some shops) makes it a little easier. If the Bucs were even + 3 (-110), buying that extra half point could take you to -135 juice or more. At that point, it becomes highly unattractive. If you can buy the extra half point and keep it under -130 (or ideally -120 or less), that’s an easier pill to swallow.

Hard to add much to that excellent analysis. I’ve never been a fan of ‘buying points’ in any context but getting the extra half point at the key number of three in this situation makes sense.


I won’t go so far to say that the reports above ‘buried the lede’ because the point of each was pretty evident. In my view, however, there’s some extremely significant takeaways relative to the US sports betting market worth pointing out.


Or anywhere else in Nevada….here’s Purdum’s account of how McIngvale placed his big bet:

McIngvale flew into Colorado Springs on Wednesday, logged on to the DraftKings mobile betting app from the airport and placed one of the largest bets ever on the Super Bowl. After paying a little extra in juice (-127) to get the Bucs at +3.5, McIngvale would win $2.72 million if Tampa Bay covers the spread.

I’m not sure if McIngvale spent any time in the beautiful Colorado Springs area or if he turned around and flew straight back to Houston. The important point is that he was able to take care of his wager at the airport–just like he could have done anywhere else in the state of Colorado. Like my Colorado ‘home away from home’– one of the posh corner suites at the Grand Hyatt Denver:

I’m assuming that McIngvale already had his account set up and funded but if he didn’t he could have done both from the Colorado Springs airport. In Nevada, however, he would have had to make a trip to the casino he was betting with. See that idyllic scene of winter in Colorado Springs we’ve used as the feature image for this article? You’d have access to a wider variety of sports betting options there than if you were standing center Strip in Las Vegas.

That’s because Nevada is still living in the analog era with in-person registration required for mobile betting. That’s a by-product of the outdated belief that it is necessary to force players to come to the casino to do *anything*. That’s why Nevada’s sportsbooks do just over 50% of their action via mobile while other serious sports betting states–Colorado and New Jersey for example–do well over 95%. You think that the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented 2 month plus shutdown of Nevada’s gaming industry would have been a wake up call that the old way of doing things had gone from merely antiquated to completely counterproductive. Guess again….the state government and gaming industry regulators in Nevada are too worried about doing *anything* except carrying water for the big gaming companies.

The biggest irony might be that quite a few of the big gaming companies in Nevada have benefited mightily from states with remote registration for mobile betting including William Hill, Boyd Gaming, BetMGM, WynnBET, Caesars Entertainment and Circa Sports. The declining perception of Nevada’s gaming industry is bad enough–the real harm is that the state’s outmoded attitudes toward regulation are not in the best interest of the state, the citizens of Nevada or the broader economy. These, presumably, are the entities that gaming *should* benefit. The gaming industry is only going to get more competitive going forward and allowing Nevada casino companies to bury their heads in the sand until it’s too late will forever relegate the Silver State to utter irrelevance.


If he wanted to bet at DraftKings, ‘Mattress Mack’ couldn’t bet in Nevada even if he had the desire to do so. Mobile or otherwise. DraftKings doesn’t serve Nevada. Neither does FanDuel. Neither does Penn National’s high profile Barstool Sports brand. Penn National’s two Las Vegas area properties are the M Resort and Tropicana. Both have William Hill sportsbooks. At least one is up for sale (Tropicana).

The three previously mentioned companies are significant in that they’re considered the top three US sports betting providers by most financial industry analysts. None of the top three are in Nevada. This is a much bigger problem for Nevada than it is for these companies. Of the many sports betting apps currently legal in New Jersey only five are available in Nevada. Same story in Colorado where there are eighteen betting apps available (including the tribal run Sky Ute Sportsbook). Only five of these companies are available in Nevada (Circa Sports, BetMGM, SuperBook, WynnBET and William Hill).

Sports betting is booming across the US and will only get bigger. Las Vegas could have been the epicenter of the whole thing–retail, mobile, B to B, etc. Instead, they chose to live in the past with the legacy gaming companies jealously guarding an ever shrinking revenue ‘pie’. The red hot sports betting industry is passing Las Vegas and the state of Nevada by and no one in state government or gaming regulation really seems to care. Nevada has fewer mobile betting apps today (9) than they did a year ago at this time. They’re not only standing still they’re heading in the wrong direction.

Las Vegas is a great place to live and the city’s economy is finally starting to diversify beyond the gaming industry. That’s still no reason for the city and state to be a non-entity in the multi-billion and growing sports betting industry. Las Vegas could have been sports betting’s version of Wall Street but too many of the state’s power brokers are determined to keep Nevada living in the past.

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