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From charity and Bible quoting to cussing, biggest sports-bet winner ever is quite a character

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Astros Parade Baseball

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, foreground, who won more than $70 million in bets on the Houston Astros to win the World Series, gathers with some of the players before riding in the team’s victory parade on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Houston.

It wasn't the $2 billion-plus that the record Powerball jackpot was hit for this week, but Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale has received a massive payday of his own.

When his beloved Astros won the World Series last weekend, the rollicking 71-year-old Houston furniture store owner became what is widely regarded as the biggest winner of bets on a sporting event ever. He had bet $10 million, spread across several sportsbooks and at varying odds at different stages of the season, on the team to win MLB's title.

He came out just north of $72 million ahead (some reports say $72.6 million, others $75 million) but that is not pure profit. He made the bets to hedge against a promotion he had on furniture, including mattresses, he sold in which those who spent at least $3,000 on designated items would get double their money back if the Astros won the Series.

Still, it is believed he came out well ahead.

"It's definitely a win-win," McIngvale told ESPN. "These promotions just bring the brand to life and give us a ton of brand equity that we wouldn't have otherwise. The customers love it, so they're totally engaged and talk about it for years. Because it runs all season long, it probably ups the number of people following the Astros, too, because now they have a real vested interest in the team."

McIngvale is a showman who is immensely popular in Houston for his charitable acts and big-as-Texas personality. He regularly quotes the Bible in social media posts but has a tipping point, too. He let hecklers in Philadelphia have it when he was there last week for the World Series, yelling a sexual-oriented obscenity at the several people in animated fashion when they disparaged his team's integrity.

But he often performs random acts of kindness, such as recently giving World Series tickets to a 48-year-old woman with Down syndrome and others in her party.

His biggest contribution to the community probably came in 2017, when the area was reeling from the impact of Hurricane Harvey. So he let people, total strangers, stay for free in his store.

"At the end of the day we're all going to be judged by our creator, and he isn't going to ask how much money we made," McIngvale told ESPN. "Instead, he or she will ask us how much of a difference did you make?"

He is so beloved in his hometown that a petition was circulated last week asking that he throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a World Series game. It drew tens of thousands of supporters and he was on the field Saturday to do just that — a few hours later the Astros delivered him the landmark payout. Then he was on the top of a double-decker bus with a lot of the Astros players on Monday during the championship parade in downtown Houston.

"Talk about just a fantastic moment!" he Tweeted. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be riding WITH THE @astros in their championship parade and the people of Houston would be chanting MY NAME. This is humbling. I love you, HOUSTON!"

McIngvale was in Las Vegas on Thursday to collect and one of the places at which he won, BetMGM, posted video of him pulling a wheelbarrow laden with $10 million in cash toward a private plane to take it to Houston. No direct deposit or check for this flamboyant guy.

"This money is heavy," he says.

The biggest loser in all of this was Caesars sportsbook, which took a $3 million Astros bet from at 10-1 odds. That's a hit of $30 million.

"What can we say? We just wrote the biggest check in sports betting history to Mattress Mack," Caesars Digital chief operating officer Ken Fuchs said in a statement.

The mattress man is putting a dent on the bottom line of Caesars, the mega casino-gambling corporation. Caesars CEO Tom Reeg brought it up last week on the company's earnings call.

“I think most of you are aware we’ve got a fairly high-profile liability out there with the Astros, so that will be a swing factor in whether the fourth quarter is positive as a whole,” Reeg said.

Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point resort in Las Vegas, probably summed up the feeling for a lot of the betting shops such as his that aren't tied to mega-corporations.

"I got to know Mattress Mac a bit," Andrews, a longtime Nevada bookmaker, said in a tweet. "Good guy. I’m happy for him and his huge score. Especially since he didn’t bet it with me."

Stat of the week

How much does the suddenly iffy status of a star quarterback impact the pointspread in the NFL? Plenty, in the case of Buffalo's Josh Allen.

The Bills entertain Minnesota on Sunday in a matchup of first-pace teams, and when the opening lines for this weeks games were posted last Sunday Buffalo was favored by 9 1/2 points at many sportsbooks. But with it being revealed during the week that he had suffered an injury to his throwing elbow in his last contest, and the likelihood of him playing against the Vikings diminishing, the line plummeted.

As of Friday afternoon, the Bills were down to being favored by 3 at DraftKings (East St. Louis) and 3 1/2 at the other legal sportsbooks in the St. Louis area — FanDuel (Collinsville) and Argosy (Alton).

Weekend picks

It's been an up-and-down run here recently, with the bottom falling out last week with a goose egg on our picks to drop to 12-18 and -18 units overall the good (selections can range from one • to five •••••).  

Nonetheless, we'll seek to walk the comeback trail with this week’s opinions (odds listed are the most favorable that were available Friday afternoon among the three area sportsbooks):

Indiana at Ohio State, 11 a.m. Saturday, Missouri at Tennessee, also 11 a.m. Saturday: We'll step on the wild side here, going with a parlay on several outcomes in these games. In the first, we expect a big bounce back for the Buckeyes after their high-octane offense was shackled by miserable weather last week at Northwestern. There is a chance of rain for this one, but unlike last week the wind is not supposed to be much of a factor. The Buckeyes had scored at least 44 points in seven consecutive games before that one, when they were held to 21, but face a soft Hoosiers defense here.

In the second, this is a bad spot for MU as the Vols will be looking to take out their frustrations for their loss in their big game at Georgia last week.

We're coupling a few exotic bets here, in which books allow the lines to be manipulated (of course at worse odds) from the traditional numbers, but when combined can pay decently. Ohio State over 16 1/2 points in the first half ("real" line is 28) and over 40 1/2 in the full game ("real" line is 49 1/2), plus Tennessee -16 ("real" line is 20). This would pay just over even money at DraftKings. ••

Seahawks vs. Buccaneers, 8:30 a.m. Sunday, in Munich: The NFL plays a regular-season game in Germany for the first time, and it showcases Tom Brady and the Bucs. However, the Bucs have looked more like Clucks this year, and the Seahawks have been one of the league's surprise teams, in a good way. An outright Seattle win certainly is possible, and getting points is a bonus. Seahawks +3 (Argosy). •••

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