The people love Joey Chestnut. But the new king of Major League Eating is Matt Stonie, and the entertainment odds favor Stonie for Monday's hot dog chewstravaganza.
Are you ready for the Centenario? No, not the Copa America – Chile already absconded with that trophy. We're talking about the (alleged) 100th anniversary of the first hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. As the story goes, back on July 4, 1916, four immigrants gathered at the brand-new Nathan's Famous hot dog stand, to see who was the most patriotic of the bunch.
It may be the centennial for the first Nathan's stand, but the 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest can only be traced back to 1972, and it didn't become an annual event until 1978. Now it's must-see Independence Day TV. ESPN started covering the contest in 2003; it typically draws over one million viewers – many of whom will have money riding on the outcome.
All Glory to the Megatoad
There are other events that fall under the Major League Eating banner, some with betting odds attached, but Monday's contest is by far the highlight of the calendar. There should be added interest in this year's event, too, after Matt “Megatoad” Stonie ended the eight-year reign of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut atop the eating world. Chestnut was a –900 favorite over the entire field last year at Bovada. Stonie paid out at +500 when he wolfed down 62 hot dogs, buns and all, within the 10-minute time limit. Chestnut topped out at 60.
It may have gone down as an upset in the record books, but Stonie was an easy value bet. Competitive eating is a physically taxing endeavor that favors the young; Chestnut was 31 years old in 2015, eight years older than Stonie, and there were already signs that the challenger was on the verge of dethroning the champion. Chestnut maxed out at 69 franks in 2013, then could only manage 61 in 2014. Compare and contrast to Stonie, who upped his intake from 51 to 56 dogs during that span.
Despite last year's changing of the guard, fans are still behind Chestnut for this year's contest. A poll on Nathan's website has Chestnut favored by 57 percent of respondents, with 39 percent with Stonie as betting pick and another four percent calling for an underdog to emerge from the remaining 10 qualifiers. If this poll is accurate, there should be plenty of value with Stonie on Monday's odds board. Bovada has the champ as a –140 favorite versus Chestnut (EVEN) in head-to-head betting at press time, up from –130 Wednesday evening.
There's a women's division, as well, and reigning champion Miki Sudo is holding steady at –250 in head-to-head betting against former champ Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Again, age will make it difficult for Thomas to reclaim her crown; she's 48 now, while Sudo is 30 years old. Eventually, someone will rise up and become the new king and queen of competitive eating, but it doesn't look like it'll happen this particular 4th of July.