Mattress Mack is at it again, this time with a chance to make U.S. sports betting history.
Jim McIngvale, a Houston furniture store owner, has drawn plenty of attention for his massive wagers over the years, starting with the inaugural season of the Houston Texans and running through high-profile wagers on teams that have included the Alabama Crimson Tide, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals in major events.
Some of those would seem paltry to what’s at stake now. If the Houston Astros win the World Series that starts Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies in Minute Maid Park, he’ll stand to collect around $75 million from futures bets he made throughout the season.
“Let’s just put it out there. This would be the biggest payout in history for any sports bettor, I believe, anywhere, any time,” said Caesars Sportsbook head of sports and digital CEO Ken Fuchs. “Being on the risk side of that, we’re certainly sweating it.”
Sports betting as a business promotion
Of course, many of McIngvale’s wagers are really business promotions that draw nationwide publicity because they appear as massive wagers. If his bet hits, the 71-year-old owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston provides generous giveaways to customers. He hedges by banking on having increased furniture sales to compensate in the long run for his unsuccessful bets.
Typically, he offers customers a refund up to $3,000 on their qualifying purchase if the bet lands. This time, with the stakes this massive, he is offering them twice their money back. So, spending $3,000 at the store could get a customer $6,000 back if Houston wins the series. He said Sundays and Mondays at his store typically bring in around $1.2 million per day, but this past Sunday and Monday, the store did around $16 million in sales both days.
“If the bet hits, I’ll get the $10 million in capital back that I invested, so I don’t have any cost in the promotion,” McIngvale said. “If the Phillies win, I’m out the $10 million. I have a vested interest in this either way, but my real interest is making sure the customers win.”
Because he spread his Houston World Series future bets among various operators since the season began, McIngvale has singlehandedly made Houston a liability for many sportsbooks. That’s less than ideal for the operators considering the Astros are heavy favorites — as low as -190 at some books (including BetMGM).
McIngvale wagered $3 million at Caesars Sportsbook at +1000 back in May, and later that month, he risked another $1 million at +1200 at WynnBet. He bet another $2 million at BetMGM in July at +500, and later that month, he put another $1 million on Houston at Betfred at +500. All told, he has $10 million riding on Houston and could make around $75 million if it wins the series.
Phillies odds bumped by Mac’s action
That leaves many sportsbooks rooting for the Phillies, who entered the postseason as the No. 6 seed in the National League but have upset the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, and San Diego Padres to get this far. From Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, with the Phillies struggling to qualify for the playoffs, their World Series odds reached as high as +6000 (at Caesars). Entering the wild card round vs. the Cardinals, the Phillies were available for up to +3000. Their best price at the moment is +170 at Caesars.
According to Caesars, one Indiana bettor placed $4,200 on the Phillies in early April that could turn into $105,500. A New York bettor put $2,500 on them at +4000 in June for a potential hit of $100,000.
It’s no secret why Philadelphia remains a big underdog despite its hot play. The Astros’ hard-throwing, high-spin pitching staff has dominated the postseason to the tune of a 1.88 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts in 72 innings. It’s also a well-rested staff, having pitched in just seven games since the regular season ended three weeks ago.
Since Caesars released its World Series odds, 75.8% of its tickets and 84.4% of its handle have landed on Philadelphia. One Nevada gambler put $200,000 on the Phillies at Caesars at +175. McIngvale’s bet spurred Caesars to offer the most generous odds on Philadelphia.
Caesars lead MLB trader Eric Biggio said he originally set the Phillies as slightly less than +200 underdogs since they finished strong against San Diego, but that McIngvale’s action made it hard for him to offer them at a more enticing price.
“I had a price in mind, and I saw other shops open -170, which I thought was too low,” Biggio said. “Add in our Mack liability, we opened a little higher than the rest of the market. We’ve taken some Phillies money just being top of the market and some bettors shopping around.”
Tracking MVP action
Bryce Harper’s absurd 1.351 OPS this postseason has radically changed World Series MVP prices for obvious reasons. Aaron Judge entered the postseason as the chalk, at +1400 at Caesars, with Yordan Alvarez, Justin Verlander, and Jose Altuve next at +1800. Harper (along with teammates Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler) opened at +7500.
Now, Harper is the favorite at +500 at Caesars, followed by Alvarez (+600), Verlander (+900), Alex Bregman (+1100), and Altuve (+1400). Bregman has drawn the most action at Caesars, with 53.8% of the handle. Harper (16.5%) has drawn the highest percentage of tickets, making him the people’s favorite. One Pennsylvania bettor nabbed Harper at +7500 for $100.
It’s often worth finding a longshot for this award, which can’t be bet in all markets (including New York) since it relies on voting. Among the non-superstars from the last six World Series, Ben Zobrist, Steve Pearce, and Jorge Soler all have MVP trophies.
It’s also worth considering Nola at those odds since he’s scheduled to pitch Game 1, meaning he’ll also likely start Game 4 or 5 and could be available to pitch Game 7 on short rest. The same goes for Verlander. That’s a lot of opportunities to impact a series for a starting pitcher, who typically competes in only 20% of a team’s games at most.
Photo: Brett Davis/USA TODAY