A poker cooler refers to a situation in which a strong, almost unbeatable hand loses to an even stronger hand.
Bad beats can be very painful. The pain you feel after losing to two-outers on the river can be compared to what you feel after getting a poker cooler.
While the outcome is almost always the same — you lose a sizable pot that you thought was a sure-win — there are significant differences between a bad beat and a poker cooler.
What is a poker cooler?
Poker coolers are situations in which you have a very strong hand but you end up losing to a better hand.
They didn’t outdraw you, unlike a classic bad beat scenario. They had you at the chips, but there was very little chance that they would have a better hand than yours.
A classic cooler poker hand involves getting dealt pocket Kings against someone else’s pocket Aces.
You don’t fold pocket Kings before the flop so when you end up all-in and the other guy flips pocket rockets, you weren’t doing anything wrong. They also didn’t do any wrong.
The hand played out as a poker cooler.
Are poker coolers an anomaly?
The nature of all poker variations, Texas Hold’em in particular, is that anyone can be dealt any hand at any time. Although it is unlikely that someone will have pocket Aces and pocket Kings in the same hand, it is possible.
If something is statistically feasible, it’s almost certain to happen given enough samples.
If you play enough hands, then you will be able to witness and participate on both sides of the poker cooler.
The definition of poker cooler is somewhat ambiguous and not all players will agree. In some cases, the numbers are such that you can’t do anything else but go broke.
Or when you have the flush on an unpaired board, and you run into a two-card straight flush.
You shouldn’t play scared poker and miss out on the opportunity to make money just because you are afraid of a poker cooler. It is more likely that the other player was simply playing a hand worse than yours.
Can you avoid a poker cooler?
There are certain situations you cannot avoid, but there are also spots where the cooler was avoidable.
People will often excuse their bad play by calling them coolers, rather than trying to improve their game.
For example, you defend against an early position raise by having Q-8 suited. The board comes out QQK and you check call to see an A on the turn. You check-call again, and the river is 10.
You check again and your opponent makes a POT size wager. What should you do?
Your hand is not very good against an early position raiser, particularly if they are competent. They have all full houses and even some straights within their range so if you decide to call, then this is cooler.
It’s easier to ignore this hand as a cooler than admit that you should have folded and moved to another hand.
This is a situation in which you should fold unless your opponent has very specific reads.
Why do poker coolers matter?
It is really hard to lose to a cooler hand. It’s hard to overcome, especially after waiting hours for your chance only for your set of eights to lose to another set of tens.
However, it is hard to imagine a cooler in poker.
It’s a statistical anomaly that occurs so rarely that it’s not worth your time to think about. You will also be on both sides, so it doesn’t matter as much.
A string of bad coolers can mess up your mental acuity so you shouldn’t let them affect your game.
Remember that poker numbers tend to even out. If you are playing a winning strategy, any cooler hands that go wrong will eventually turn the other way.
You’ll have the opportunity to experience the run when you’re the guy with pocket Aces against someone’s Kings, and where your top set cracks someone else’s second set.
It is important to stick to your strategy and not to stray from it because you have been playing on the wrong side.
Do not be afraid to play your big hands, even if you lose a few hands in a row. It is worth noting that you will see more coolers playing in online poker rooms because you play more hands.
The only way a poker cooler can hurt you long-term is if you let it influence your game.
It’s impossible to control your losses in certain areas, but you can lose out on the value of virtual nuts if you’re afraid you might be beaten.
Getting over a poker cooler
It’s easy to say that you stay completely emotionless, accept every poker cooler as a fact of life, and move on with your life.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all method to achieve this. As you probably know from experience, these hands hurt no matter how long you’ve been playing.
Once the shock has passed, you should try to get back to normal as soon as possible. Don’t waste your time pondering over them. You’ll spend less time thinking about coolers and more time learning the game.
Instead of lamenting your poor luck, focus on improving your game in the areas you can make a difference.
You should always enjoy every pot you win, cooler or no cooler. As long as you did all the right things in a hand you can enjoy it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!