One of the most common terms in the world of sports betting, laying the points in football simply refers to picking the favorite to win and also for it to cover the points spread.
If the oddsmakers put the point spread at 3 points and you bet the favorite, it must win by four points for you to collect winnings. If it wins by less than three points you lose the bet. And if it wins exactly by three points, it is called a push and you get your money back.
This is opposed to taking the points, which means you are picking the underdog to either lose by less than three points or actually win the game. Keep in mind bookmakers will often add a half-point to the line to ensure there is a winner. If the line is -3.5 points, the favorite must win by at least four if you lay the points.
It should not take you long to understand which team is laying the points when you look at a list of football games. In the list, two teams will be listed. In the majority of cases, the home team will have a point spread next to its name. If you see the minus sign such as -6 next to its name, it is the favorite. If you see a plus sign such as +6 next to its name, it is the underdog.
One aspect about betting against the spread that can leave bettors in a bit of a quandary concerns placing a wager on a game involving their favorite teams. For instance, if you think the team you like will be unable to keep the favorite from covering the spread, you would find yourself rooting against your own team in order to collect the bet. Similarly, if you don't think the team you follow will be able to cover as the favorite, you would end up rooting for a closer game than the spread. A closer game could result in your favorite team losing.
In short, it is better to bet with your brain than your heart. There aren't too many things in the world of gambling that are worse than enjoying watching your favorite team win, but at the same losing money because it was unable to cover the point spread.
Sports gamblers should constantly be aware that even though a game might involve a great team against a bad one, the point spread could be so high that betting the favorite will often not be the way to go. This is a common mistake often made by amateur gamblers. Just because a team might easily win a game does not mean it will cover the inflated spread.
There are many other things to consider when laying or taking points. These include injuries, home field advantages, looking at more than the records of the teams and schedules. Beware of so-called "trap'' games in which a team might underperform because it loses its focus for a variety of reasons. An example of a trap game occurs when a team wins a big game the previous week and then comes out flat against what it perceives to be a lesser opponent.
While the oddsmakers take all of these things into consideration, they are human as well and it's possible you might have a better feel for what's going to happen. As always, it's a good idea to compare the various spread lines prior to making a bet and keep your eye out for how the line might go up or down during the week. If the spread makes a sharp jump up or down, it's usually for a significant reason.