Let’s be frank — this is your year. This is the year you can clean up on Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest props. And we’re here with everything you need to know on how.
You’re betting on the biggest sporting event on July 4th, and if you come in unaware you’ll face one of the most prohibitive favorites in all of the sports. Joey Chestnut is set to become the 15-time world champion in hotdog eating — which would put him on title ahead of Rafael Nadal’s 14 French Open wins — and arguably the most decorated champion in the sport.
So how do you approach an event where the leader on the odds’ board is priced no cheaper than -3000? Glad you asked. We’re digging into the details on a buffet of bets.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest props stretch way back in history with some pretty dubious origin stories. For years, its chief promoter endlessly claimed the event traced its origins back to 1916. While there might have been the seed of truth there, records before the 1970s are sketchy at best — and not until 1979 did the contest run continuously on the Fourth of July.
Both the event and the sport itself grew over the following decades, eventually spawning and merging with Major League Eating (MLE). Since 1997, MLE sanctioned the event, deeming that only competitive eaters under contract with them may participate in the contest.
Within a few years, the first force-to-be-reckoned-with exploded on the scene in Takeru Kobayashi. The Japanese phenom established new records — doubling the previously held record in 2001, scarfing back 50 Hot Dogs and Buns (known in the biz as HDBs). He’d go on to win six consecutive Mustard Belt titles.
In 2007, everything changed when a young up-and-coming challenger improved on his previous years’ performances and upset the reigning champ by a score of 66-63 HDBs consumed. The following year, organizers reduced the time from 12 to 10 minutes, but Chestnut’s reign of domination continued unabated. Only an outlier victory by Matt Stonie in 2015 separated Chestnut from claiming 15 consecutive champion wins.
In 2011, the contest added a women’s event, with Sonya Thomas winning the inaugural event with 40 HDBs consumed. She’d win the next two contests before falling to Miki Sudo in 2014. Since then, Sudo won every contest on the women’s side with the exception of 2021, when she did not compete due to her pregnancy.
Today, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest props is bigger than ever. After a COVID-related move in 2020 and a temporary change of venue the following year, the event now returns to Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Critics charged that Chestnut’s record-setting 75 HDBs in 2020 were aided by the fact that the event was hosted indoors under climate-controlled conditions — likening it to Chestnut eating in his kitchen instead of the hot and humid conditions on Coney Island before thousands of screaming fans. (Yes, weather and crowd matter!) Chestnut silenced much of that criticism when he chawed back 76 of them the following year outdoors.
Come this Monday, weather forecasters predict conditions to be a bit warmer than they were last year. Forecasts call for a high of 75 degrees with a 9 mph breeze and 56% humidity. (Chestnut’s record-setting 76 HDBs came under cloudy skies and a temperature of 68 with 55% humidity.)
While this might increase the challenge of another record-breaking effort, conditions still favor Chestnut who enters as an overwhelming favorite between -3000 and -5000. Again, fading Chestnut is foolhardy but there is still value on the betting board to be found — particularly if your book allows wagering on who places second.
Currently, Geoffrey Esper is the favorite to clinch second place at +225. Esper ranks second in all of MLE, with a career-high of 50 hot dogs eaten. Nick Wehry — the boyfriend of the aforementioned women’s phenom Miki Sudo — enters at +325 with a high of 44 hot dogs eaten. Darron Breeden is priced at +550.
A similar situation exists on the women’s side, where Sudo is the heavy favorite ranging from -4000 to -5000 odds. Books list Michelle Lesco with the closest odds to dethrone Sudo, albeit as a hefty +1000 underdog.
So what’s the best way to dig in and ingest the info you need to start making value bets on hotdogs? By the eater.
- Westfield, IN
- Age: 38
- MLE Ranking: 1
Chestnut is only worth it if he can be parlayed with other bets at -3000 to -5000. Do not fade him, but also you can’t be sure if he’ll be at his own personal record. If you can, throw him in any weekend parlay you may have to go. Now, if you’re comfortable with a 2-3% return on investment after a 10-minute contest, then go for it. Lay the jaw-dropping number with Chestnut and watch him eat his way to making you lunch money. But if you’re seeking a higher risk return than that, you’ll have to look outside of Chestnut’s food hole and his props to win the hot dog contest.
Chestnut could easily win this contest without coming close to breaking another personal record. Since his 2015 loss, the closest margin of any competitor against Chestnut was 10 — meaning he can practically name his own winning number. It’s up to his metabolism and how he feels that day as to whether or not a new world record will be set.
Instead, look toward the total hot dogs eaten at a given minute mark. For example, his total hot dogs eaten at the 5:00 halfway mark is 45½. In his last five contests, he’s had at least 45 at that mark. (Remarkably, the 2018 broadcast showed his Midmark total at 37 but did not account for an entire missed plate of 10 HDBs.)
Keeping that in mind, his average at the halfway mark is 46, so there’s a slight lean for the over at 45½. He also gets slower as he goes along, illustrated by the book’s odds per minute. He’s projected 11½ for the first minute but the projection per minute goes down by one almost every minute after.
If you’re looking for the best opportunity to bet on Chestnut, it may come as the leader after one minute. At -550 to have the lead after the first minute, that’s probably the best opportunity with minimal vig. (He’s been the leader after a minute in all but the 2018 contest with the aforementioned discrepancy in which the score-card assistant assigned to Chestnut is visibly confused.)
There are multiple opportunities if you’re looking to bet him to have a record-breaking performance. For him to break his record of 76 is +170 for the “yes” option and -250 juice toward the “no” option. If you think he’s going to go above and beyond, there’s an option to bet on a new record of 80 or more hot dogs. The “yes” is priced at +850. More than 85? You got it — “yes” is +1000.
That would be an incredible feat considering a paper was released in 2020 by High Point University that the human limit for tubular meat consumption is 83 hot dogs, seven away from what Chestnut has already accomplished. Keep in mind, however, that betting under 85 HDBs for Chestnut carries a steep -4000 price tag and there have been studies like this through time, including one saying it was impossible for a human to run a sub-four-minute mile.
If the goal is to fade Chestnut, the best way could be in the first 30 seconds. It’s essentially a sprint out of the gate. Other competitors can keep pace early, but none can match him down the stretch. The winning margin couldn’t be by more than an HDB or two. At +200, it could be worth it to take the field to be winning after the first 30 seconds.
- Oxford, MA
- Age: 47
- MLE Ranking: #2
Oddsmakers give Geoffrey Esper quite a bit of credit. His over/under this year is 52½ flat, but his previous personal best is short of that number at 50. A three-dog improvement isn’t unthinkable for an eater in form, as the 47-year-old earned another three records in other events so far this year.
Esper may never earn the number-one rank on the MLE Top 50 but currently holds the second place ranking with the intention of holding it. His total seems correctly handicapped, so while he might merit a lean to the over, it’s hard to recommend a play on either side.
- Tampa, FL
- Age: 33
- MLE Ranking: #4
Similarly, Nick Whery enters with a total of 49½ HDBs — a whopping 5½ above his current personal best of 44. Although one of the more active eaters on the scene, it’s hard not to lean to the under here with Wehry especially with close to flat odds. Wehry holds just one record from last year and it would be a surprising jump to see him return with such a large improvement.
An alternate way to attack this would be to split a wager between Esper and Wehry to place second. At outlets offering the winner without Chestnut in the mix, Esper is priced at +225 and Wehry at +325. Instead of betting $100 and guessing which one takes second place, you could instead bet $56.66 on Esper and $43.34 on Wehry, which is the same as taking both at -119 odds and is one of the best bets of the 2022 Nathan’s eating contest.
- Orange, VA
- Age: 33
- MLE Ranking: #6
Books set Darron Breeden’s total at 42½, an unusually low total considering his personal best is 50 and he’s exceeded his posted total for three of the last four years. If it’s still available, it only makes sense to play Breeden over the total.
- Tampa, FL
- Age: 36
- MLE Ranking: 3
After a year off, Sudo is back looking to regain the Mustard Belt. She enjoyed a six-year streak after dethroning Thomas, so expect her to leave no doubt now that she’s back. But like Chestnut, betting Sudo to win the women’s side of the event requires eating a ton of chalk. So look towards her total of 46½ and consider the over, especially at plus money.
Her personal best is 48½ and if she’s in any kind of form should be able to beat the posted number — but that number has been coming down in the past week hinting that her recent form might not be fully returned.
- Tucson, AZ
- Age: 38
- MLE Ranking: #9
Michelle Lesco hoisted the women’s Mustard-Yellow belt last year in Sudo’s absence. And while she is unlikely to beat Sudo this year, her total on the board of 31½ seems slightly high of what her expectation should be.
Her personal best is 32 which came back in 2017 while last year she posted a total of 30¾ HDBs (the lowest-ever winning total for the women’s event). Lesco holds no recent records in her bio but is still active this season. Nevertheless, her total of 31½ seems properly priced and deserves a pass, as does her longshot odds of +1100 to beat Sudo for the women’s title.
Lesco won last year’s contest with Sudo out, but her career-high of 30¾ still pales to Sudo’s record of 48½. In fact, Sudo’s lowest contest-winning total of 31 dogs is even higher than Lesco’s personal best.Follow us on Twitter