Jim 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale's Incredible Life Story Explained

On November 5, 2022, as Sports Illustrated reported, the Houston Astros won the World Series. One Texan who was particularly glad to see the hometown team win was Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale (pictured above), who was not only emotionally invested in the Astros' win, but also financially invested. As Fox Business reports, McIngvale won $75 million by picking the Astros to win the World Series and making a series of bets on them back in the preseason. Specifically, he wagered $10 million at various Las Vegas sportsbooks. It made for the largest single payout on a legal bet on a sporting contest in U.S. history (the legality of betting on sports in the U.S. is complicated). "I have a high tolerance for risk. If I lose, there's always another day," he said (per Fox Business).

McIngvale is a well-known and colorful figure around the Houston area. A businessman who made his fortune through a well-timed entry into the furniture business, according to Free Enterprise Land. He's also described by AllSides as a "pillar of the community," as well as a stalwart conservative donor and advocate.

There's Good Timing And Then There's This

More than one businessperson has made their fortune simply by being in the right place at the right time. McIngvale was, according to America's Best Racing, born in Mississippi but wound up in Texas. In 1981, according to Free Enterprise Land, Texas was undergoing an oil boom, and people from across the country were moving to the Lone Star State looking for opportunities.

McIngvale and his wife saw an opportunity not in the oil boom directly but in making money off the people coming to Texas. Many left their homes and arrived in Texas with little but the clothes on their backs. They would need furniture as they settled into their new lives. Thanks to a brother-in-law who worked in real estate, McIngvale was able to find a low-rent location — one without heating nor air conditioning — from which to sell furniture. Gallery Furniture was born, and it was a runaway success right up until it wasn't anymore. Staking a fortune on a boom-or-bust economy is a fool's game, and when the oil boom dried up, McIngvale was left with a warehouse full of furniture, no customers, and a rapidly-dwindling bank account. Fortunately, another brush with impossibly bad (or impossibly good, depending on your point of view) timing would make him a local superstar.

Going Viral ... In 1987

With his customer base dried up and his bank account in danger of heading in the same direction, "Mattress Mack" Jim McIngvale took a risk. As Free Enterprise Land reports, he invested his last few thousand bucks on two local commercials that were to air on local UHF stations; the same type of ad block that would feature commercials for personal injury lawyers or vocational training.

Locally-produced TV commercials are sometimes legendary, and not always in a good way. Watch this "Eagleman" commercial and try to get through it without cringing. McIngvale also inadvertently produced a legendarily-bad commercial. Specifically, he was on the set when the spot was being filmed and, in a moment of exasperation, decided to act as his own pitchman. For thirty seconds, he rambled about furniture and then, with the clock ticking down, reached into his back pocket, pulled out a few bills, and promised that Gallery Furniture would, " ... save you money!"

A hit was born. No publicity is bad publicity, as the old saying goes. As sales shot up, McIngvale was transformed into a viral hero. Per Free Enterprise Land, legend has it that some Texas kids' first words have been "... Save you money!" Now known as "Mattress Mack," McIngvale leaned into his notoriety by upping his game, sometimes appearing dressed as a mattress, sometimes bringing his children into the act.

Jim McIngvale The Philanthropist

Now impossibly wealthy, Jim McIngvale has made it a point to give back to the community via various charity endeavors. For example, a list of times in which the businessman used his facilities or his merchandise for people in need, which is provided by AllSides, is lengthy. When a hurricane struck in 2007, he used his company's moving trucks to rescue hundreds of people from flooded streets while also supplying tens of thousands of people with food and shelter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he started a free vocational school where kids could learn plumbing and mechanics for students who didn't finish high school. At Christmas, according to Free Enterprise Land, he gives away furniture to families in need.

He's also helped finance an anti-drug film, campaigned for the 2008 Olympics to come to Houston, and built a practice facility for the Houston Rockets. McIngvale also had the backs of U.S. soldiers. For example, the Houston Chronicle notes that in the summer of 2022, he provided $20,000 in free furniture to a U.S. Army servicemember who was wounded in Afghanistan

"My father was a giver. He gave all his life. It left a tremendous influence on me, my siblings, and his grandchildren. He died without a lot of money because he gave it all away. But he died happily and led a rich and fulfilling life because he gave to other people," he told Forbes of his inspiration.

Jim McIngvale The Republican Operative

According to All Sides, in addition to being a reliable presence regarding charitable endeavors in Texas, Jim McIngvale is also a stalwart Republican donor and supporter. The source describes him as a "staunch Tea Party Republican." As the Houston Chronicle notes, over the years, he's endorsed and donated to a variety of Texas Republicans in various races, many of whom went on to win their races.

He's also worked in some non-partisan or quasi-partisan political activities. For example, as KHOU reports, in April 2020 when Texas Governor Greg Abbott wanted to reopen the state following COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns, McIngvale was among the dozens of business leaders, doctors, and other appointees tasked with developing a plan. The task force focused on the state's economic recovery, working with the federal government, health safety, and educational accountability. Furthermore, the anti-drug film in which McIngvale helped finance starred television star and conservative legend Chuck Norris (per USA Today).

The Gambler With The Fat Wallet

As mentioned, McIngvale made history when he was awarded the largest single payout in the history of legalized sports betting in the United States. The payout was $75 million after the Houston Astros won the World Series. As Fox Business reports, he did this by making multiple smaller bets (and we're using the word "smaller" relatively, as each of his bets was comfortably in the millions) at different odds spread out over various online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in Las Vegas.

McIngvale hasn't always placed winning wagers, however. As the Houston Chronicle reports, in a five-week period in the spring of 2022, he lost an estimated $15 million in losing sports bets. However, McIngvale has a luxury that many gamblers don't have; he can afford to lose. "I have no fear in me. I have a high tolerance for risk. If I lose, there's always another day," he said via Fox Business.