November 30, 2023

Furniture Bank

Swing Your Furniture Bank

Houston’s Millionaire Gambler ‘Mattress Mack’ is Just ‘an Old East Dallas Boy.’

Jim McIngvale puts his money where your morosity is.

The Dallas Cowboys suckered you in again this season, raising expectations and even igniting Super Bowl fantasies with another successful regular season and their first road playoff victory in 30 years. But in the end, Lucy predictably yanked the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second, leaving gutted fans to trudge into a dark, cold winter without a Cowboys’ championship for the 27th consecutive year.

While conducting the annual ritual of picking up the pieces of your shattered feelings, save some thoughts and maybe a prayer or two for McIngvale’s broken wallet.

Known simply as “Mattress Mack” for the zany TV commercials promoting his Gallery Furniture in Houston, the former East Dallas resident and Bishop Lynch High School graduate dropped a cool $2 million when the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoffs. But what he may lack in sports-betting acumen, Mack more than makes up for in marketing savvy.

He lost what some would consider a fortune, but not his sense of humor.

Immediately after the loss, McIngvale took to social media to send a message to Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott, who just so happens to be a spokesman for a national mattress company.

“Hey Dak, Mattress Mack here,” McIngvale posted on Twitter and Instagram. “I just lost $2 million, but I’ve got some advice for you. Get rid of that Sleep Number mattress and get a Tempur-Pedic. You’ll get much better results!”

Though the $2 million loss is eye-popping and attention-grabbing, it’s seemingly just part of Mack’s absurd advertising budget. It’s also, at this point, house money.

While he may appear to be a problematic, high-stakes gambler badly in need of counseling – or perhaps just a heater – Mack is losing only a small portion of the money he’s won. In addition to the loss on the Cowboys, he coughed up another $3 million in January when he lost a bet on TCU  in college football’s national championship game against Georgia. He also lost $10 million when the Cincinnati Bengals lost the Super Bowl in February 2022.

Though the $2 million loss is eye-popping and attention-grabbing, it’s seemingly just part of [Mattress] Mack’s absurd advertising budget. It’s also, at this point, house money.

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But those pale in comparison to his signature win. Mack bet a total of $10 million on the Houston Astros to win baseball’s 2022 World Series. And when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies to lift the trophy in November, Mack netted the biggest legal sports-betting payout in U.S. history: $75 million.

McIngvale claims it’s all just marketing. In advance of his much-publicized wagers, he offers Gallery Furniture customers spending $3,000 to double their money back if he wins the bet. Bottom line: While he paid through the nose for the Astros’ win, he sold $20 million of furniture tied to the Bengals loss and more than covered his $2 million loss on the Cowboys.

Win-win. Win.

“It’s whatever we can do to make people’s lives better,” McIngvale said recently. “Sometimes that happens through the wonderful world of sports.”

So where did the 71-year-old Mack acquire the moxie and money to become one of America’s most high-profile gamblers and philanthropists?

“I’m an old East Dallas boy,” he said. “And proud of it.”

James Franklin McIngvale was born in Starkville, Mississippi, in 1951. Sports was in his blood from the start as his dad, George, was a star football player at Mississippi State. The family moved to Dallas when McIngvale was in elementary school. He graduated from Bishop Lynch in 1969 and attended the University of Texas, where he played for the Longhorns’ national championship team.

He rarely appeared in games because of, McIngvale jokes, two problems.

“One, I was too small. Two, I was too slow.”

He later transferred to the University of North Texas in Denton but dropped out before earning a degree. Back in Dallas he took a job at a 7-Eleven convenience store, but was fired.

In 1981 he and his new wife, Linda, moved to Houston to capitalize on the area’s oil-and-gas boom. Gallery Furniture was born and immediately grew on the wings of his wacky TV ads that showed him wearing a flimsy mattress and shouting his frantic “Gallery Furniture saves you money!’ catchphrase.

Mack eventually blossomed into a celebrity and a Houston hero.

He once boxed Muhammad Ali for a promotion. He funded the Chuck Norris movie Sidekicks. He boasts of  being an “ultra-Republican,” contributing to the political campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And he made national headlines for opening up his store locations as temporary shelters during Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, and the 2021 winter storm that knocked out Texas’ power grid.

His empire includes three warehouses, including a massive 165,000-square-foot store in Fort Bend County that houses a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, tropical birds, exotic animals and a giant jumping mattress. Gallery Furniture’ annual sales have grown to more than $200 million, and Mack is reportedly worth $350 million.

Business pedigree and marketing genius be damned — even Mattress Mack should’ve known better than to bet on the Cowboys.

Groundhog Day was Feb. 2. But for football fans in D/FW it’s been the same nightmare on repeat since 1996: The Cowboys are popular, profitable and wholly pathetic.

They last won the Super Bowl in 1996, back when Bill Clinton was president and gas was $1.23 per gallon.

The Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers ensured the drought without a victory parade will stretch on toward an almost unfathomable 4,500 days. Dallas, home of the have-nots.

The last time a local pro team won a championship was the Dallas Mavericks, on June 11, 2011. The last time we partied, Dirk Nowitzki was still a player, Jason Kidd wasn’t yet the coach and Luka Doncic was in junior high.

Close, but no cigars.

“I’m an old East Dallas boy, and proud of it.” – Jim McIngvale, aka “Mattress Mack”

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The Texas Rangers got within one strike – twice – in 2011, the Dallas Stars within two games in 2000 and 2020, and the Mavs made it to the Western Conference finals last summer. And then there are the Cowboys, who haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl since winning it in 1995.

Diagnosis, blue balls.

Worse, this Cowboys’ collapse prompted not anger but merely sadness. That’s what happens when fans can’t directly blame the referees or owner Jerry Jones, but instead your $160 million choirboy of a quarterback.

Sorry, but the unsettling realization is that Dak ain’t “it.”

He’s led the team to 24 wins in the regular season the last two seasons, second only to the Kansas City Chiefs. But all that success from September to December has only been futile foreplay leading to January failure.

Now 29 and supposedly at the peak of his powers, Prescott this season became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead the league in interceptions despite missing five games (with a thumb injury). Seemingly on the verge of a career breakthrough after beating Tom Brady in the first round of the playoffs, he threw two more game-changing interceptions in the 19–12 loss to San Francisco.

Cold, hard truth: The Cowboys’ defense was good enough to win a Super Bowl, but their quarterback was so bad they couldn’t even get to the NFC Championship.

Prescott is a splendid person. He is not, however, a “super” player.

“It’s 365 days away from getting back to this position,” Prescott said after the loss to the 49ers. “We’ll do whatever’s necessary to be right back here and win it next time.”

Another hollow Dak vow? Sadly.

Another hefty Mack wager? Surely.