Houston furniture store owner Jim McIngvale bought hundreds of tickets for nuns to attend Astros games in the World Series and American League Championship Series.
The sisters became known as the “Rally Nuns” and proved more popular at Minute Maid Park than the man known as “Mattress Mack.” But the nuns couldn’t save Mack from losing $4 million in bets on Houston to win the World Series.
The Astros lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games.
Mack, 70, laughed off the notion that he took the “Rally Nuns” to games to help him win his wagers.
“A ‘Boston Globe’ writer said that it’s bad enough the Red Sox have to beat the Astros (in the ALCS), now they have to beat the nuns, too,” he said. “They’re great people. They don’t get out much. They live a cloistered life, so it was good for them.
“They took more pictures on the concourse than I did, and I take a lot.”
There’s a preschool inside Mack’s massive Gallery Furniture store where, once a week, the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province teach children about the Bible.
He treated 55 of the sisters to Game 1 of the ALCS. When the Astros rallied from a 3-1 deficit in a 5-4 win, they were dubbed the “Rally Nuns.”
The nuns were back by popular demand for Game 6, when Sister Mary Catherine threw out the first pitch — pointing at her wrist like Houston shortstop Carlos Correa does — and the Astros prevailed 5-0 to win the pennant.
The winning streak ended in the World Series, but the “Rally Nuns” were still a divine inspiration.
“They had a tremendously positive effect on the crowd,” Mack said. “In a very dark and sometimes secular world, they represented something good and were bright rays of light.
“They had a good time and the fans had a good time with them. It was a lot of fun.”
Mack, who placed his bets to hedge a $27 million liability on a furniture promotion, took the $4 million loss in stride.
“I have a short memory. It took me about 15 seconds to get over it,” he said. “You win some, you lose some and sometimes you get rained out.
“If you’re going to gamble, you’ve got to take the losses as well as the wins.”
In June, he wagered $3.35 million to win $35.6 million on the Astros, including $2 million to win $20 million at Caesars Sportsbook.
With Atlanta a +120 underdog to Houston (-140) in the World Series, Mack could’ve easily hedged his bets to ensure a profit. But he said he could never bet against his hometown team because “that would be like betting against one of my own children.”
In fact, rather than lock in a profit on his wagers, he pressed his luck.
After Houston fell behind 2-1 to the Braves, he bet $650,000 more — including $325,000 at Caesars — to win $1 million on the Astros at +155.
Mack said some customers who bought furniture in the promotion that offered a refund of any purchase of $3,000 or more if Houston won it all told him that they placed hedge bets on the Braves.
“A lot of them tend to do that, which is fine. That’s good for them,” he said. “I never considered hedging. I continued to bet on the Astros to the end.”
It wasn’t the Hollywood ending Mack had hoped for in which he would collect almost $37 million in the largest payout in legal sports betting history and host parties in which he’d pay his customers back $27 million. But it was a thrilling ride.
Perhaps the safest bet is that Mack will be back next year with more promotions and major wagers on the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series, where the Astros are one of the favorites at 12-1.
“My wife says I have a gambling problem,” Mack said. “I don’t have a gambling problem, I have a promotional problem. And I’m going to do it again. I can’t wait for the next promotion.
“We sold a ton of mattresses.”