Embracing The Cold
Why Bad Cards Are A Good Thing—Or At Least Neutral In The Long Run
“I waited all night for a playable hand. I finally pick up Kings but—of course—run right into Aces!” — overheard during any poker session.
Sometimes in poker, we are dealt a strong hand, but our opponent gets an even stronger one and we lose. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to good things. To understand why this is so, let’s return to the previous post on Bad Beats. A bad beat is whenever a dominating hand gets beaten by an inferior hand. For example, we have Kings, shove, the villain calls and turns over 3s-2h, and they win. That’s a bad beat. But occasionally, our strong hand runs into an even stronger hand: e.g., we have Kings, shove, the villain calls and turns over Aces, and we lose. This is known as a “cooler.”
The difference between this situation and a bad beat is that neither opponent made a mistake in the hand; in fact, we both played our hands correctly. We just got unlucky to run into Rockets when we held the Cowboys. We had a very strong hand and were justified in getting all our stack into the pot. Our opponent did, too. That’s poker, friend. Professionals embrace this kind of loss, knowing it’s a good thing in the long run. And, yes, I’m serious. Here’s why:
You Played the Hand Correctly. First, you did everything right. That’s all you can do in poker. Usually, playing a hand correctly is not easy. Here you did. So, you need to congratulate yourself. Making consistent, +EV decisions and following through with them are the hallmarks of winning, professional play.
Results Don’t Matter. The results of an individual cooler are the same as the results of any other specific hand in poker. I.e., they mean essentially nothing to a player’s bankroll in the long run. It’s just part of the long-term nature of poker. This time, your Kings ran into Aces. The next time, you will be the one who holds the Aces. Winners understand coolers even out, meaning the long-term results are zero EV. You will make no more money—and lose no more money—over time because of coolers. Every time you flop a set that loses to a bigger set will be offset by the reverse situation in the future. All the coolers in poker even out with time. They add (and subtract) exactly a big fat zero from your bankroll. Zero. Nada. Zip. Null. Nothing. If your bankroll is sized correctly for the stakes you play, coolers are meaningless in the long run.
Coolers Tilt Lesser Players. Winners understand coolers can cause tilt. They themselves are hardened to the effects of tilt, but the amateurs they play against aren’t. Many poker players focus on the results of a hand. And then they tilt when they lose to a cooler. And tilt makes all the difference in these kinds of situations. Winning professionals kind of just wryly smile, nod, and shrug off coolers—win or lose, it doesn’t matter. They don’t feel superior when they win. And they don’t whine when they lose. Professionals know that both extreme mindsets can lead to bad play. But amateurs recoil at the loss. They feel its sting. They howl at the injustice of it all. And as a result, they often tilt. Said another way: when your opponent gets upset with a cooler and slips off their A-game—well, you win. They make non-optimal decisions, while you continue making good, +EV decisions. Over time, you can and will profit greatly in these situations.
The bottom line with bad cards, a.k.a. coolers, is they’re just a natural part of the game. They even out over time, so their results are negligible on your bankroll—unless, of course, they cause tilt in your opponents, in which case coolers can be very profitable. Learn to embrace coolers.