Inside rise of 'Mattress Mack', the biggest Kentucky Derby bettor who used outrageous wagers to build $240million empire

RACING enthusiast and furniture kingpin Jim 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale is back in the betting saddle for this year's Kentucky Derby.

The Houston tycoon, 71, is renowned for his audacious sporting wagers and is reportedly planning a $4million splurge at the Churchill Downs showpiece.

McIngvale has been making headline-grabbing bets for a number of years, building an empire worth an estimated $240m.

A former college football player, he owns the three-store chain Gallery Furniture in Texas and came from humble beginnings.

Born in Starkville, Mississippi in 1951, Jim attended North Texas State University where he met his future wife Linda.

They founded Gallery Furniture in 1981, with just $5000 and a pickup truck to their name.

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Business was slow initially and McIngvale threw his last $10k at TV advertising in a desperate attempt to drive sales.

His fast-talking, no-nonsense style in front of the camera was a huge hit with audiences, as was his catchline: "Gallery Furniture!"

The persona of Mattress Mack was borne from this advertising campaign and would help Jim go on to make his business a huge success.

By 2019, the furniture giant turned over $164m in revenue – and that grew to a whopping $230m in 2021.

McIngvale invests a huge amount in his local community and made national headlines after opening his stores to shelter people from Hurricane Harvey.

He runs an annual Christmas Giveaway to provide furniture to more than 500 households, while he's given millions to organizations including the Texas Heart Institute and his former college/

Cash donated by McIngvale was instrumental in the building of a new Athletics Center and state-of-the-art football facility at Texas State.


But it's high-rolling wagers which have really pushed him into the sports spotlight, with the gifted gambler using his business nous to create win-win scenarios.

McIngvale doesn't make his huge bets for gambling glory, but instead to hedge the losses of big-money promotions at his stores.

For events such as the World Series, Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby, the Mattress King will make a million-dollar-plus wager on the outcome.

He'll then offer customers a full refund on selected furniture brought during a promotional period – if the bet wins.

McIngvale rakes in both the money from the bet and punters looking for mattresses – before paying everyone back if the wager comes in.

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He usually goes for slight outsiders as a result, leaving himself a healthy profit and his customers more than happy if it comes in.

Should the bet lose, he's offset the losses with the business driven by the promotion itself.

The genius of Mattress Mack's business model was evident in this year's March Madness, where he bet a total of $9.86m across four bets and won $13.5m.

During the promotion period, Gallery sold $12.9m worth of furniture, which under the terms Mack had to refund happy customers who spent more than $3000.

Despite that, he made $500,000 dollars profit.


The publicity of the promotions drives people into the stores and McIngvale revealed huge profits during the NCAA event this March.

He explained to Forbes: "Normally, on Mondays we do about $200,000 at this time a year.

"Yesterday we did $1.4 million."

In an even bigger win for the Houston kingpin, he lumped a whopping $9.5m on the Bengals to beat the Rams at Super Bowl LVI.

Los Angeles ruined that one for mattress punters, who flocked to the stores and spent over $20m in sales.

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Despite the bet losing, Mattress Mack was up over $10m thanks to his promotional nous.

McIngvale will be at it again for this year's Kentucky Derby, set for Saturday, May 7 at Churchill Downs.

He's set to lay down around $4m on his favored horse, although is yet to make a solid selection.

He said: "I still got my initial investment back [at March Madness], so everybody was thrilled… and it was a great promotion.

"So that's the type of thing I'm looking for in the Kentucky Derby is get the favorite home.

"Any bets I do are sizable so it'll be pretty sizable. I bet with both hands. I can't help myself.

"My wife says I have a gambling problem. I say I have a promotional problem."

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