Mattress Mack bets $5.5 million on Kansas to win the NCAA Basketball Championship

TheThursday Night Eats, the legendary sports gambler and Texas furniture pioneer known as “Matris MacTo get to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to place a $5.5 million bet on the Kansas Jayhawks to win NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. But there was a problem: It was 150 miles away in Houston and the highway was backed up for five hours.

Mac, whose real name is Jim McIngvale, took a 45-minute helicopter ride instead. After the bird landed at Million Air, the special terminal at Chenault International Airport in Lake Charles, Mac and his wife Linda went to fast food chain Sonic, where they shared a strawberry milkshake. And A caramel milkshake to help “relieve her anxiety” about the bet he was about to make. He then placed two bets for Kansas to win the championship at +190: one for $3.3 million on Caesars sports betting app and the other for $2.2 million through Barstool Sports. If he wins, he will raise $10.5 million.

“I bet on KS to win it all,” McIngvale says.

But McIngvale is not a fan of the University of Kansas. For those in the know Mac, who owns a Houston furniture showroom, his bets making headlines are just business. His $5.5 million bet is a hedge against promoting in-store furniture: If customers buy $3,000 or more in American-made furniture, a Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster or Sealy mattress, and Kansas wins, they get a full refund.

Customers have until a tip-off between Kansas and the University of North Carolina on Monday night for the purchase and possession of furniture. McIngvale says they’ve already sold $10 million worth by Saturday, so he expects to sell between $12 million and $14 million before the championship game.

“We’ll keep selling, so I might have to bet a bit more on Monday,” he says. “The show has been going well even though the furniture business is very weak at the moment. We had a great three weeks.”

Texas runs in McIngvale’s blood, so he began his promotion three weeks ago with the University of Houston. They reached Elite Eight but lost to Vilanova 50-44. Since the Texans didn’t make it to the championships, McIngvale chose the team closest to his shop geographically, so he’s now rooting with the Jayhawks for the best Tar Heels. “Thank God it wasn’t Duke or North Carolina because, 5 miles away, it would have been an argument,” McIngvale says.

There is an argument that can be made that it would be better for McKingville and his company if KS were to lose. He will lose his $5.5 million bet, but he will be able to keep all of his turnover, which could exceed $14 million, millions more than he would have won if Kansas cut the grid Monday night. But McIngvale disagrees: “The best-case scenario is a KS win: Clients get their money back and they’ll be talking about it literally a decade later,” he says.

McIngvale has been running these types of promotions and hedges against them with sports bets for about 15 years, so he never feels uneasy before a game. As a traditional retailer, the 71-year-old entrepreneur has relied on tricks like these to keep his business alive in the age of e-commerce. Plus: “It’s a lot sexier than liability insurance.” Tell Forbes During a previous interview in February.

If he loses, it won’t be the first time. Mac lost $9.5 million bet on the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI in February, but sold $20 million worth of furniture during that promotion. The Super Bowl was just the latest multi-million dollar loss for McIngvale. His biggest gamble was on the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series. He put a total of $17 million into his hometown team over two months and lost when the Washington Nationals defeated the Astros. But the most painful loss was during last year’s World Championships, when he placed a futures bet of $2 million, 18 to 1, to win the championship. He could have earned $36 million if the Atlanta Braves had not defeated the Astros.

Millions of Americans bet with McIngvale during March Madness. About 45 million American gamblers planned to bet a total of $3.1 billion this year NCAA Men’s Division I Championshipaccording to a report by the American Gaming Association.

McIngvale is a betting man, but he’s also a religious man. He posts Bible verses once a day on Twitter and goes to church every week. Gambling may be resented in some religious communities, but MacKingville, who is Catholic, says his church doesn’t mind. “In the church I grew up in, they always gambled the lotteries and bazaars and they always gambled and played bingo,” he says, “So what the hell is that?”

When KS and UNU face off at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night, McIngvale will be in his shop, watching the game with customers. He pays some University of Houston basketball players to come and sign autographs.

“We’re going to have a good time,” McCendingville says. “There will be hundreds of customers here, watching from the store, cheering for Kansas.”