The 2020 edition of Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest comes our way on Saturday, July 4, with the worlds top competitive eaters squaring off for the Mustard Belt and a share of $40,000 in prize money.
Bettors in New Jersey, New Hampshire and Colorado can get even closer to the action this year. Legal betting on this annual tradition now has the green light and odds are posted on sportsbooks as we speak. You can also join the $25,000 free-to-play pool at DraftKings.
This years contest will have a different feel due to safety precautions. Instead of outside surrounded by fans at the corner of Surf and Stillwell on Coney Island, itll be held indoors at an undisclosed location. Only six eaters will compete on the mens side and just five will compete for the women.
Massive favorites can be found on both sides. Joey Chestnut is expected to add to his lengthy Nathans resume. Miki Sudo is expected to do the same for the women.
Are the favorites locks to win it all? Or is there money to be made betting on the underdogs? Heres what you need to know about betting on the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
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Joey Chestnut has won this event a ridiculous 12 times. He won it handily in 2019 (see above). Hes the overwhelming favorite to win it all again, and theres not much to suggest that he wont make it happen.
According to current odds at DraftKings, the odds of a Chestnut win now sit at -1000, while the odds are +550 for any other eater in the field to pull out the victory.
Say you want to bet on Chestnut anyway and put $100 on it. If he does go on to win, at those odds youll make $10. While its always nice to have an extra 10-spot laying around, it doesnt exactly translate into a stellar return on investment.
Now lets flip the script. Say you go against the grain and the unthinkable happens. A winning $20 bet on any other eater at odds of +550 turns into $130 when we cash out the ticket (the initial stake of $20 plus a $110 profit).
Betting on massive favorites at such unfriendly odds just doesnt make much, if any, sense. But do any of the mens competitors have a legitimate shot? Heres a look at the biggest threats.
Thats three competitive eaters out of a field of six who have at least a slim hope of unseating Chestnut. Another secret you might not now about competitive eaters? The best are actually really fit, so its worth knowing how in shape your horses are before betting on them. See updated odds on all eaters at DraftKings right here:
Over on the womens side of the equation, were faced with a similar conundrum. Six-time champion Sudo is a gigantic favorite. At DraftKings, its odds of -835 for Sudo and +500 for anyone else.
While Sudo winning once again seems like the most likely outcome, the return would be nothing to get excited about. For a $100 winning bet, wed get back a whopping $12. However, if we drop a $20 on the field and the upset rings true, well make $100 for our efforts.
So does anyone have a shot at taking down Sudo? Heres who looks like the biggest threat.
Michelle Lesco: Shes number 10 in the MLE rankings and will be looking to top a personal best of 25.5 Nathans Famous Hot Dogs.
Three other women will be in the field as well, so we cant completely rule out an unknown shocking the world. It doesnt matter who pulls it off, as long as one of them does so you can cash a ticket at odds of +500.
If youd like to get even more analytical with the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, theres absolutely a way to do so. You can place your bets on the Over/Under for the number of hot dogs eaten by the competitors.
You can think of this being the same as placing a wager on a total for an NFL or NBA game. Theres a simple decision to make on the benchmark number provided by oddsmakers: Will the total be Over/Under that amount when all is said and done?
There are also a few other intriguing prop bets to consider. Using defending champ Chestnut as an example, his personal best (and current world record) is 74.
Can he beat that number this time around? Heres what the oddsmakers at DraftKings have to say about the range hell fall in.
Last year, Chestnut rifled down 71 dogs, while he hit 72 in 2017 to bookend his record-setting 2018 total of 74. If you think he has hit his peak and expect the total to drop this year or believe another record is coming, you could be in for a nice payday if either comes to pass.
Chestnut has speculated the conditions might be right to break his current record. As he told TMZ, in an air-conditioned warehouse instead of the hot street and with fewer competitors to make hot dogs for (and so better tasting dogs, he says), conditions are perfect for a record attempt.
You can also bet on the individual marks for the competitors. For Darren Breeden, the bar has been set at 49.5. He hit 50 last time around, so you simply need to choose if you like him to go over or under last years tally.
There are also bets to be found on whether a record will be set on the mens or womens side, as well as the total number of dogs eaten for the winner in both brackets. Heres what the odds look like for the women.
Sudos best is 41. Itll take a Herculean effort for her to beat that mark, or for anyone in the field to hit 41 or more.
In years past, the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest has been a sight to behold as tens of thousands of fans took in the action live at Coney Island in New York City. Millions more watched ESPN along at home.
Its a different story this year. Just like virtually every other sporting event, the COVID-19 pandemic means that no fans will be in attendance. Additionally, as opposed to being held in an open-air venue, the proceedings have been moved to an undisclosed location.
Could the changes have any kind of ripple effects on the competition? As we all adjust to new realities and prepare for the return of sports sans fans, several prominent oddsmakers have weighed in and said that the absence of crowds could impact the events.
We also have to at least consider the possibility that a lack of fans at the contest amounts to a new wrinkle. Think about it: if Chestnut hits a wall mid-way through the event, will the fact that no fans are cheering him on impact him digging deep and pushing through?
While we cant lean on history as a guide, we can say that its certainly interesting food for thought.
The roots of the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest trace back to 1916 (or so the legend says, as official records only date back to 1972). Either way, there has been enormous growth in the contest from the early days. Consider the following:
As you can see by prize money alone, the contest has evolved from a curiosity into a serious event. For some additional perspective on the numbers, consider that Kobayashis tally of 50 in 2001 was a 257% spike over the winning number of 14 in 1972.
If we look at Chestnuts record of 74, its a rise of 420% over the 1972 winning tally. Eating contests are big business these days. While this is by far the most famous, there are upwards of 3,000+ contests held annually across the globe, including qualifying events to see who has what it takes to compete at the signature Nathans contest.
Back in the days when the contest was little more than a side attraction, the answer would be no. Now that the event has risen in popularity while the competition level has gone right along with it, we can say maybe.
Since Takeru Kobayashis stunning performance in 2001, when he doubled the prior years winner, the event has been even more competitive. The winning tally on the mens side has been over 60+ year after year for over a decade.
The womens contest made its debut in 2011, and totals for the winners have been in a tight range of 31 to 41. When it comes to totals, we have some data to go off of, so we can say that analytics plays at least somewhat of a role.
As for the winners, we cant say for certain. Both Chestnut and Sudo are on dominant runs, and the trends show no signs of abating. However, theres always the possibility of an upset.
Anything is possible, but its tough to see how the competitors could pull it off, or why they would want to with so much prize money and prestige at stake.
A designated scorekeeper watches over the proceedings with an eagle eye, and penalty cards can be issued for things such as regurgitation or messy eating. Also, the defending champs, Chestnut and Sudo, have been on dominant runs. They dont seem to need any help in mowing down the competition.
This year, they are the overwhelming favorites for the mens and womens competitions. Legal betting on the event has been permitted in NJ, NH, and CO for the first time.
So why hasnt betting been allowed on the event in the past? The answer is two-fold. For starters, the legal sports betting environment is complicated with each of the individual states having things they may or may not frown upon. Since sports betting has been a rather new development for many of them, the envelope hasnt been pushed too far, and options for betting on entertainment events have been rather scant as a result.
Things are different this year. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the sporting calendar, so sportsbooks are spending more time on things that may not necessarily move the needle. Hence, the push for betting on the Nathans contest took off and dreams were realized.
ESPN has been providing broadcast coverage of the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest each year since 2003. The first year was on tape delay, but it has been live and in living color every year since then.
Normally, the event is held outside of the Nathans location in Coney Island with thousands of fans in attendance. Itll be held without fans this year in a private location, but ESPN will still be there to bring us the action.
Coverage begins at noon Eastern on the main ESPN channel, which is available for streaming via many cord-cutting providers. You should also be able to pick it up on the ESPN app, but please note thatll require signing in with a valid TV provider.
There are some risks involved with competing in contests of this ilk, and some of them are of the long-term complication variety.
Among the potential problems is a condition known as gastroparesis, a disorder that has to do with the weakening of muscles in the stomach. If this were to happen to a competitive eater, the ability for the body to move food naturally through the digestive tract would be impacted.
Consuming such large quantities of food not only at the contest but in preparation of it opens up the door to potentially severe bouts of vomiting. One well-known competitive eater claims hes thrown up over 10,000 times in his career. Over time, all sorts of damage could be done internally to the stomach, esophagus, throat, and teeth.
Just like any other competition, the competitors know the risks going in. For those who have chosen to compete at this level, we can assume they have individually reconciled the risk-to-reward ratio.
For some further perspective on what the contestants are putting themselves through, we need to look no further than the nutritional stats on what they are consuming during the event. Lets take a look at the differences between eating a single dog and consuming a massive quantity of 70.
To drive those numbers home, consider that the average adult following a healthy diet should be consuming up to 2,000 calories per day. On the sodium front, a person that went over 2,300 mg of sodium per day or so would be overdoing it.
Too much sodium can open the doors to serious health problems down the road. For those who compete at this level of eating, its yet another factor that we would imagine has to weigh heavily on the thinking.
The Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is a fun event, and the fact that we can bet on it this year makes it even better. However, that doesnt mean that the sport is completely devoid of controversy or blackmarks.
Consider the case of Takeru Kobayashi, a competitor who personally transformed the sport. As mentioned, he crushed the previous record by a wide margin in 2001 by knocking down 50 dogs.
That was the first of six straight wins for Kobayashi at this event, a run which brought him a great deal of fame and put the event itself on the map. Sadly, Kobayashis association with the contest would take a dramatic turn in the opposite direction.
He last competed at the contest in 2009. As he explains it, he refused to sign an exclusive contract with event organizers, which he found to be too restrictive. Naturally, the relationship soured.
While he wasnt scheduled to compete in 2010, he showed up anyway and jumped onstage after it was over. He was arrested and spent the night in jail. Event organizers have tried to mend fences and invited him back, but there has been no movement towards reconciliation on Kobayashis part to date.
Through the years, several memorable characters have taken the stage in Coney Island to take their shot at glory against the best competitive eaters in the world. Heres a where are they now look at some of the most iconic competitors in Nathans history.
Each of these competitors, and many more, have made their mark at the Nathans contest. Well wait and see if any new icons emerge at this years event or in the coming years.
The Nathans Famous Hot Eating Contest was once akin to a sideshow attraction. These days, its big business and a popular made-for-TV event thats broadcast to the nation every Fourth of July. As such, stars have been created along the way. Heres a look at the ones who have shined the brightest.
1. Joey Chestnut: A 12-time winner of the event, Chestnut will be looking to make it five straight titles in 2020.
2. Miki Sudo: She has won this event six times in a row and become a big name as a result. Can she make it seven straight this year?
3. George Shea: The brains behind the contest also serve as master of ceremonies, and he has gained a great deal of fame due to some legendary introductions.
4. Sonya Thomas: Known as The Black Widow, Thomas won the first three womens Nathans competitions and became an instant celebrity.
5. Takeru Kobayashi: This is the guy who changed the game at Nathans. Kobayashi began a dominant six-year run in 2001 by downing a then-unheard-of 50 dogs.
While these are the five biggest stars the event has produced to date, theres certainly room for more. Well see who emerges to carry the torch and the Mustard Belt in future years.
The spectacle that is the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest lends itself to plenty of pomp and circumstance in normal years. A good part of the fun is the rousing introductions by organizer George Shea, who puts an interesting spin on the contestants, many of whom have some rather outstanding nicknames.
Since this years event will be held without fans, some of the usual magic may be missing. However, well hold out hope that itll still be chock full of entertainment. In the meantime, lets take a look at some of the more memorable nicknames in the world of competitive eating.
1. Crazy Legs Conti: Formerly known as John Conti, this competitor liked his stage moniker so much that he legally changed his name to match it.
2. The Locust: Rich LeFevre has been on the competitive eating circuit since 2002, right along with his wife who competes on the womens side.
3. The Black Widow: Sonya Thomas made a name for herself by competing with the boys and following that up by winning the womens crown three years in a row.
4. The Doginator: Dominick Cardo once took first place in the pickled cow tongue division of a contest known as the Glutton Bowl.
5. Beard Meets Food: Adam Moran is the real name of a YouTube sensation who holds the British record for most Big Macs consumed.
Its pretty tough to beat the name Beard Meets Food, but we can safely assume that we havent seen the last of creative nicknames on this fun and entertaining circuit.
As George Shea calls it, Rich and Carlene LeFevre are the First Couple of competitive eating. Rich has earned the nickname The Locust for his exploits, and Carlene has competed right by his side at several Nathans contests.
Remarkably, theyre both over 70-years-old and have slight builds. However, that doesnt stop them from scarfing it down. As an example, Rich set a world record by eating six pounds of Spam straight out of the can back in 2004.
The LeFevres have become quite the darlings on the competitive eating circuit. The couple has been together for 40-plus years and has noted that theyre both voracious eaters.
Thankfully, there havent been any tragedies at the Nathans contest. Unfortunately, thats not the case with food eating contests that fly much further under the radar. Heres a quick look at some of the more horrifying incidents.
While the Nathans contest is a fun source of entertainment, the dangers are real, as well as for other forms of competitive eating. Said another way, leave it to the pros.