Nathan's Hot Dog Contest

Perhaps the easiest way to show how competitive eating has evolved from a curiosity into big business is the extent of the prize money. Winning the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held annually on the Fourth of July in Coney Island, is worth $10,000. Joey Chestnut, who won the Nathan's event for eight consecutive years, competes in various competitions throughout the year, and he reportedly earned $230,000 in 2014.

Another sign? There are actually betting odds for the Nathan's contest. Nothing legitimizes a sport more than the approval of Vegas.

ESPN has locked up the broadcast rights for the Nathan's competition through 2024. This year, ESPN3 will stream the contest live at noon ET Monday. ESPN is scheduled to show a delayed telecast at 3 p.m. ET. Here are some key facts if you want to bone up on Nathan's knowledge:

What's the record for most hot dogs eaten?

Joey Chestnut

Joey Chestnut ate 69 hot dogs during the 2013 contest. He also held the previous record with 68 in 2009 and 2012.

Related: 12 Epic Sandwiches Named After Famous Athletes

Who are the defending champions?

Matt Stonie

Matt Stonie won in 2015 to end Chestnut's reign of eight consecutive titles. Stonie, runner-up the previous two years, beat Chestnut 62-60. In the women's division, Miki Sudo repeated as champ with 38 hot dogs.

Related: Eater's Guide To New Vikings Stadium: Go Hungry

There's a women's division?

Sonya Thomas

Nathan's created a separate competition for women in 2011. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas won it the first three years, and her record of 45, set in 2012, still stands.

Related: Frank Thomas: Why Food Is My New Passion

Why hasn't Takeru Kobayashi competed in this event since 2009?


Kobayashi won the last of his six consecutive titles in 2006. In the next three years, he finished second to Chestnut. Then he became ineligible to compete after he refused to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating. In 2011, Kobayashi staged a rival event as he competed by himself on the rooftop of a Manhattan bar -- at the same time as the Nathan's contest. Kobayashi reportedly ate 69 hot dogs, while Chestnut's winning total at Coney Island that year was 62.

Related: Kobayashi And The 42 Cups Of Coffee

How long does the contest last?

Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut

When Kobayashi began his winning streak in 2000, the time limit was 12 minutes. It was still 12 minutes in 2007 when Chestnut dethroned him. In 2008, the limit was changed to 10 minutes.

Related: Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

What's happens if there's a tie?

Joey Chestnut

There's overtime. In 2008, Chestnut and Kobayashi tied were tied at 59 after the 10-minute time limit. Chestnut won the OT session by being the first to consume five more hot dogs.

Related: Target Field Unveils Absurd Bloody Mary -- And We Give It The Taste Test

Why do some competitors jump while eating?

Nathan's Hot Dog Contest

This is known as the Carlene Pop Method. The theory is that the jumping helps to force the food down to the stomach.

Related: How To Make Grilled Donut S'mores

How filling is one of those dogs?

Nathan's Hot Dogs

A standard Nathan's hot dog has 280 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Related: Jordan Spieth Treats Media To Shiner Beer, Giordano's Pizza

What's with all the nicknames?

Nathan's Hot Dog Contest

Just like pro wrestling, competitive eating does its best to develop characters with memorable monikers. We've already introduced you to Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas. Stonie is "Megatoad." Chestnut is "Jaws." And one of the all-time classics is Rich "The Locust" LeFevre.

Related: Abandoned 1972 Chevy Nova Comes Back To Life As Gas-Burning Grill

How did this all start?

Nathan's Hot Dog Contest

The first contest was in 1972, and the winning total was just 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. What about stories that say this event began in 1916? Apparently that was the work of some PR executives. One of them, Mortimer Matz, told the New York Times in 2010, "We said this was an annual tradition since 1916. In Coney Island pitchman style, we made it up."

More Chompions
-- Grilling Chicago-Style Hot Dogs With Frank Thomas
-- Once Novelty, 'Beer Mile' Is Full-Fledged Running Competition
-- Matt Stonie Ends Joey Chestnut's 8-Year Reign As Nathan's Champ