What you should learn from Mattress Mack's betting spree

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

November 2, 2019 02:50 PM

Did Mattress Mack “Bet Smart” with his series of wagers on the Houston Astros? 

Now that the 2019 World Series has been put to bed, it’s time to evaluate a key question in what was arguably the most prominent sports betting news story ever. 

You surely know all about Houston furniture magnate Jim McIngvale’s epic hedge against a sales promotion that reportedly would have cost him $20 million if the Astros had won the World Series. Beginning Oct. 1, he placed a series of futures and per-game gets that would ultimately risk near $13 million with a possible payoff close to double that amount.

Creative business to be sure, particularly when you factor in a month of constant publicity. It wasn’t “free” publicity because the Astros ultimately lost. But Mattress Mack was brilliantly positioned to “get paid” for all that publicity if the Astros won enough to surpass his promotion exposure. 

That said, if you take business out of the equation, it’s clear that McIngvale wasn’t making smart bets. 

That’s not because Houston didn’t win. Recreational bettors are too quick to use “results-based” analysis when evaluating picks. Win or lose, Mattress Mack was arguably taking the worst of it on every bet he made. 

  • Futures bets don’t pay at “true odds,” as VSiN has discussed often on these pages. There’s a hefty house edge. Even heftier if you’re negotiating with a sports book to accept your huge bet. 
  • Prices on per-game favorites are often inflated because of public betting tendencies. Most squares feel safer betting on the team that’s “supposed to win” regardless of price. Because Houston was the perceived favorite almost every time it took the field, Mattress Mack wasn’t getting true odds on these either.
  • Houston proved to be overrated in addition to the house edge hurdles. Evidence mounted through the playoffs that the Astros weren’t head and shoulders above the field. They would ultimately go the series distance against two different wildcards. One excellent team among several. Not a goliath towering over Davids. 

He almost pulled it off anyway. Sometimes bad bets win. 

Lessons for recreational bettors who aren’t business magnates seeking publicity:

  • Don’t evaluate your bets, or your own skill sets, based on wins and losses. Did you bet at a better price than the closing line? Were your thoughts in synch with sharps? Or with the much less-successful public? Did players perform to your evaluations of their skill sets?  
  • Don’t bet futures unless you can make a very good case that the market has mispriced the skill sets of the favorite and its relevant competition. Squares don’t even see the hidden vigorish in pricing. Be wary. 
  • Keep handicapping as every new game is played. New games provide new information. Teams will be better or worse than you were thinking. Teams will evolve over time. A baseball roster that struggled through its first 50 games can truly be championship caliber a few months later (remember that both Washington and Houston went 78-34 their final 112 regular season games). 

Over the long haul, it will pay to bet smart!

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