In online sports betting, a bettor is said to be laying the points when they bet a favorite in a point spread market.
This is because of the inherent relationship between point-spread favorites and point-spread underdogs.
Because a favorite is generally perceived by the market as the superior team or player, online sportsbooks must create some kind of additional incentive for bettors to back underdogs in order to equalize the market incentives for both sides of a game.
In a point spread market, that alteration comes in the form of raising the barrier for market entry by forcing bettors to cover a spread – also known as laying the points or giving the points.
If you bet on a favorite in a point spread market, it’s not enough for the favorite to win. The favorite has to win by margin and cover that point spread.
Example of Lay the Points
In December 2023, the Los Angeles Lakers played the Indiana Pacers in the inaugural In-Season Tournament Championship. The Lakers were a 3.5-point favorite.
The Lakers won 123-109. Because the Lakers won by 14, they easily covered the 3.5-point spread.
That means bettors who took the points with Indiana lost, while Lakers bettors won by the 3.5-point margin they needed.
Here’s another example, from the NFL. In Super Bowl LVI, the Rams were 4.5-point favorites over Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The Rams ultimately won 23-20, but because they only won by three points, they did not cover the spread.
The Bengals covered as an underdog, even though they did not win.