Bad beats can hurt a lot, and the pain you feel after losing to a two-outer on the river can only be compared to the one you feel after getting poker cooler.
Although the outcome is usually the same, i.e., you losing a (usually sizeable) pot that you thought was locked, there are some significant differences between a cooler and a bad beat in poker.
So, what is a cooler in poker?
Poker coolers are situations where you have a very good, almost unbeatable hand, but your opponent shows up with a better one.
Unlike a classic bad beat scenario, they didn’t outdraw on you. They had you when the chips went in, but the chance of them having a better hand than you were very slim.
A classic cooler poker hand is getting dealt pocket Kings against someone’s pocket Aces.
You’re pretty much never folding pocket Kings before the flop, so when you eventually end up all-in, and the other guy turns over pocket rockets, you didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t do anything wrong, either.
The hand played out exactly as it was supposed to. It was just a poker cooler.
Why Do Poker Coolers Exist & Can They Be Avoided?
The nature of pretty much all poker variations and Texas Hold’em especially is that anyone can get dealt any hand at any point. It is unlikely that someone will have pocket Aces in the same hand where you have pocket Kings, but it’s not impossible.
If something is statistically possible, it’s pretty much bound to happen given a big enough sample.
If you play enough hands, you’ll witness and be an active participant on both sides of poker coolers.
As I’ve explained, the definition of a poker cooler is somewhat open-ended, and not all players will agree on it. Some, like the above example, is a clear definition of a cooler, where the numbers are such that you can’t do much else than go broke.
Or when you have the nut flush on an unpaired board and run into a two-card straight flush.
You can’t afford to play scared poker and pass on the opportunities to make money being afraid of facing a cooler. More often than not, it will turn out the other player was just overplaying a hand that’s worse than yours.
Not All Coolers Are Equal
While there are spots that you can’t avoid, there are also situations that fall under the general umbrella of a poker cooler that isn’t as unavoidable.
People tend to justify some of their bad plays as coolers because that’s easier than trying to improve their game.
For example, you defend against an early position raise with Q-8 suited. The board comes QQK, and you check call to see an A peel on the turn. You check call once again, and the river comes the 10.
You check again, and your opponent fires a POT size bet. What do you do?
Against an early position raiser, especially if they’re competent, your hand doesn’t play that well at all. They have pretty much all full houses and even some straights in their range, so if you decide to call, you can say that this is cooler.
Of course, it’s easier to disregard this hand as a cooler in poker than confess that you should have probably made that fold and move to play another hand.
It’s a situation where you can and should find a fold unless you have very specific reads on your opponent.
Do Poker Coolers Matter?
Losing to a cooler hand really stink. It’s not an easy thing to get over, especially after you’d been sitting patiently for hours for your chance only to discover your flopped set of eights is the second-best against another player’s set of tens.
But, if you think about it, what is a cooler in poker, really?
It’s pretty much a statistical anomaly that happens so infrequently that you shouldn’t give too much thought to it. Also, over your career, you will be on both sides of coolers, so that does not matter as much as you think.
Having a string of bad coolers in a short period of time can mess up with your mental state, but you really shouldn’t let them influence your game in the slightest.
Keep in mind that numbers in poker tend to even out. If you’re playing a winning strategy, any cooler poker hands that go wrong will eventually go the other way.
You’ll experience the run where you’re the guy with pocket Aces against someone’s Kings and where your top set cracks someone’s second set.
The important thing is to stay true to your strategy and deviate from it based on the fact you’ve been running on the wrong side of poker coolers.
Don’t start playing your huge hands timidly just because you lost a couple of hands in a row. Of course, it is also worth mentioning that you probably see more coolers when playing in Online Casinos and poker rooms, just because you see more hands. There is no conspiracy to this.
The only way a poker cooler can hurt you, in the long run, is if you let it influence your play in a way that you start making –EV plays.
You can’t do anything about losing in certain spots but missing out on value with the virtual nuts because you’re afraid of unlikely monsters is on you.
Selection of Iconic Poker Coolers to Make You Feel Better
Every time you lose a pot to a cooler, you’ll feel bad, there’s no doubt about that. However, losing in a small local tournament isn’t as bad as busting out of the Main Event or losing a six or seven-figure pot in a cash game.
So, if you want to feel better about your cooler, check out some of these epic videos to realize it can always get worse.
Imagine turning the Aces’ full in the Main Event and being dead to one out. To Vanessa’s credit, she did consider folding her hand, but it’s not the kind of fold you’ll ever really make.
The table reaction tells you all you need to know about this poker cooler, and even Selbst herself is shell-shocked once Baumann turns over quads, but what can you do there? On to the next one.
As I said, not all cooler poker hands have been created equal. While that 7 on the river is the ultimate cooler card, both players realize that the tight player betting into two opponents and then 3-betting over a call and a raise is never bluffing.
Laying down monsters sucks, but sometimes it's the only right move to make.
This hand is a perfect example that weird things can sometimes happen at the table. While this hand is more of a bad beat as Phillips did hit his gin card on the turn, that Ace on the river cements it as the ultimate poker cooler.
How often do you lose with quad Aces in Hold'em? But at least he'll have a good story to tell for years to come.
This is an old but legendary hand from High Stakes Poker that most people have seen a few times. It is another cooler-type situation where things aren’t as cut and dry.
While Daniel has a very good hand, he still must wonder what kind of hand would Gus needs to move all-in on the river. But, it is Gus Hansen after all, so you can’t discard a crazy bluff, and it’s hard to blame Negreanu for calling.
No matter what, Daniel ended up losing over a quarter of a million in that hand, so that must have hurt.
But, that’s poker, and that’s the nature of poker coolers – when you’re the guy sitting in Hansen’s seat, your smiling but at the same time feel the pain because you know you will be on the receiving end some day.
Take Your Poker Coolers in Stride
I would love to give you advice on how to become completely emotionless and accept every poker cooler as something inevitable and move on with your life.
Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to do this. As you can see from the videos and as you probably know from experience, such hands hurt no matter how long you’ve been playing.
But once the initial shock is over, try to recover as fast as you can and don’t delve over them. The more time you spend thinking about coolers, the less time you’ll be able to devote to things that matter – learning the game!
Focus on improving your game in areas where you can make the difference instead of lamenting your bad luck.
And don’t feel bad about being on the right side of a poker cooler. As long as you did everything correctly in a hand, you should enjoy every pot you win – cooler or no cooler. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!