If you play Texas Hold’em or any other form of poker, for that matter, you have been on both ends of a poker cooler a few times in your life.
But what is cooler in poker, and how do you recognize one?
In the shortest of terms, a cooler in poker is a hand that you lost or won, but not thanks to your skill. In fact, it is a hand that any player in the world would have won or lost a lot of money because of the way cards came up.
Can Poker Cooler Be Avoided?
In the purest sense of the word, a cooler in poker is a hand that can’t be avoided. Think of getting dealt pocket kings against pocket aces with 20 big blinds in your stack, and you have yourself a true cooler.
However, when we asked what is a cooler in poker, this was not the only type of hand that came up.
Sometimes coolers can be set over set situations with deep stacks and can occasionally be avoided, but as you will see in the discussions on NVG poker on twoplustwo or other places, people just fo with it most of the time.
As you will see in some of the hands listed here, a poker cooler can be a hand that you may fold to some players. However, there are situations when there is just no getting away from a set or a flush.
The good news is that if you don’t get away from a cooler, no one will think you made a mistake. On the other hand, if you do, everyone around the table will think you are an instant genius.
Poker Coolers Even Out
The most important thing to know about a poker cooler is that it doesn’t really matter. All hands even out in the end, and most people will never fold to you when you are on the winning side of a cooler.
The variance in poker is the one thing that gets many players tilting, and coolers can be a big part of this, especially when they come one after the other.
When a poker cooler does occur, remember to take a step back and possibly make a short break. It will do you good.
Over time, you will notice that you inflict just as much cooler pain as people do on you. In fact, if you are playing well and folding trash cards, you should be on the winning side of coolers more often.
To make sure you fully understand what poker coolers really are, we have compiled this list of the seven coolers that will turn your stomach watching them.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into this top list of the biggest poker coolers that were ever seen on television.
Top Poker Cooler #1: Tony G vs. Vanessa Rousso (The Big Game)
Recorded during a wild session of PokerStars’ popular show The Big Game, this hand certainly stuck in the Lithuanian millionaire’s memory for a long time. With the big blind set at $400, Tony G opens it up for $1.200 before the flop with 6c 5s.
As always, Tony is chatting it up and being the most active player at the table, so this loose open isn’t too strange to see, especially since Tony is in the small blind.
However, Vanessa wakes up with pocket aces and makes the strange decision to just call the raise. After calling, she stares Tony down, which doesn’t seem to faze the high roller one bit.
Tony proceeds to instantly bet $2.000 in the dark, but the poker gods seem to favor him as the flop comes 6s Js 5c, giving him flopped two pair and the lead.
The banter doesn’t stop, as Vanessa makes a small raise to $5.000. Tony instantly plays back, making it $20.000 to go, which Vanessa calls.
Tony never stops talking, and he successfully talks Vanessa into a call, which was always going to happen anyway. The turn card, the ace of spades, changes things up and leaves Tony dead in the water.
The small turn bet of just $10.000 from Tony is called by Vanessa, while the 5h completes the board on the river, giving them both a full house.
Tony checks in the dark, Vanessa shoves, and Tony is forced to make an instant call.
As far as poker coolers go, things can hardly get any uglier than this, as both players played the hand quite well. The tragic hand made Tony G lose almost $100.000 in total, along with some pride in the process.
Best Of Poker Coolers #2: Tom Dwan vs. Phil Ivey (Million Dollar Cash Game)
Poker coolers can hit anyone, and poker greats like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey are no exception to that.
This particular hand didn’t exactly have to be played as it was, but there was no going back once the turn card came.
These two have played quite a few seven-figure pots among them, but this one certainly went down in history.
The game is down to just three players, with Patrik Antonius being the third famous face at the table.
Tom opens it up from the button with his 7h 6h, and Ivey comes over the top with Ac 2d, making it $17.000 more to call.
After Tom calls, the board runs Jc 3d 5c, giving both players a gutshot straight draw. Never shy to fire, Phil makes it $35.000 to go, and Tom calls.
As you could have guessed, the turn card is the tragic 4h rolls over on the turn. Once this happens, and with the dynamic of these two players, you just know it’s all going in.
One can’t help but feel slightly bad for Ivey, who didn’t do anything wrong in this hand.
In fact, if not for that particular turn, Ivey probably takes the hand down.
While some players might slow play this one, Tom ends up raising Ivey’s bet, and the money goes in, over half a million dollars from both sides. Of course, Ivey is left with no outs and yelling out for more chips.
Poker Cooler #3: Vanessa Selbst vs. Gaelle Baumann (WSOP Main Event)
WSOP Main Event is one of the few poker tournaments in which pro players survive day 1 most of the time. The deep structure and many bad players give the pros a massive edge on day 1.
However, during the 2017 Main Event, Vanessa Selbst, who is certainly one of the best in the business, got knocked out in quite a brutal poker cooler.
Our hand starts with blinds at 75/150 and Selbst raising it up to 400 with her As Ad, called Gaelle’s 7h 7d.
Another player joins the action, and the flop comes down Ac 7c 5c.
The set over set situation looks really bad, but the three clubs out there may save these female poker players from losing too much on the hand.
Selbst leads out for 700, and Baumann just calls, while the remaining player folds his Jc, which could have gone either way.
The impossible happens on the turn as the 7s rolls off, and the Main Even is basically over for Selbst right then and there.
Sure enough, the money moves in by the river on insignificant 4d, and Vanessa Selbst is left packing after just one hour of action in the Main Event.
Cooler in Poker #4: Griffin Benger vs. William Kassouf (WSOP Main Event]
Day 7 of the Main Event is where souls are often broken, and this hand from the 2016 Main Event was a cooler in poker that won’t be soon forgotten.
Leading up to the hand, British player Will Kassouf had made some headlines, using what he called speech play to antagonize players and often get them to make the wrong play.
There was hardly a wrong play to be made for Benger, who opened up the hand with two black aces, raising it up to 875k in chips.
The action folds over to Kassouf with a pair of black kings, a classic poker cooler.
After some posturing, which players were used to, Will makes it 2.3 Million, music to Benger’s ears.
This is where the speech play kicks in as Will starts interrogating the Canadian and trying to get him to make a mistake.
Benger never says a word as he puts in a re-raise for 5.6 Million and Will’s speech play continues. Of course, the Brit is convinced he has the best hand and who wouldn’t be.
After a few minutes of Will posturing and a clock being called, Benger starts to talk, telling Will that he’s being abusive and trying to shake him. Knowing the hole cards, it’s quite clear it’s all just Hollywood.
Sure enough, the chips could have just gone in within seconds as the players end up All In after a few minutes of back and forth. When all is said and done, the Brit who won the hearts of many and others’ resentments was left packing just short of the Main Event Final Table.
Cooler Poker Hand #5: Isaac Haxton vs. Linus Loeliger (Triton Poker Montenegro)
Not all poker coolers are made equal, and some of them are hands that you could get away from in theory. However, there is just no folding a hand to a certain player in certain situations, and this is one of these spots.
Isaac Haxton and Linus Loeliger were fighting it out on the biggest stage.
The massive cash game in Montenegro saw the straddle go up to EUR 4.000, posted by Haxton himself, to spice up the action.
The table was wild with high VPIP poker players like Tony G, and Linus opened it up to just EUR 16.000 from an early position holding Ad 8d, while Ike called the raise with his Kd Jh.
With EUR 42.000 already out there, the flop came down 3d 6d 2c. Isaac checked, and Linus continued as he usually will on this board for EUR 22.000.
A call from Ike was optional, but he decided to make it with his overcards.
The Jc on the turn was the real action card, as both players had reason to assume they had a pretty good hand. For that exact reason, both players checked, prepared for some potential fireworks on the river.
What other card could possibly hit the river than the Jd, completing Linus’ nut flush and giving Isaac three of a kind.
Afraid to lose value, Isaac led out for EUR 70.000, which was naturally raised by Linus holding the virtual nuts. Once Loeliger made the huge raise to EUR 260.000, Ike seemed like he knew he was beaten but was simply too strong to fold.
The two internet phenoms went head to head in this one, and Linus simply got the better cards in the end.
If you are wondering whether anyone made a mistake in this hand, experts would probably tell you that neither did, putting this in the category of the biggest poker coolers.
Coolered In Poker #6: Gus Hansen vs. Daniel Negreanu (High Stakes Poker)
The answer to the question of what is a cooler in poker was given to many in this historic hand aired on high stakes poker. The players involved are two of the biggest old school players out there.
Gus Hansen, also known as The Great Dane, opens the hand up to $2.100 with blinds set at $300/600. In a fashion characteristic to the old school poker of the day, Daniel pops it back to just $5.000, holding pocket sixes.
While this is a move that players don’t really make these days, it does get rid of Antonio Esfandiari in the middle, who is holding a powerful Ace-Queen combination, also something you would rarely see these days.
Back to Gus, who makes the call, and the flop comes out 9c 6d 5h, setting everything up for a massive cooler to Daniel’s advantage.
However, the 4% situations do happen, and this is one of them. After a bet and a raise on the flop, Daniel makes a flat call, and the faithful 5s hits the turn.
At this point, there is hardly a player in the world who would not lose their entire stack. The turn action is somewhat light, and the river is the 8s, completing a potential straight with any seven.
Hansen decides to check and trap Kid Poker and is successful. After Daniel bets $65.000, Gus shoves it all in and sends Daniel into the tank and on a rant of a lifetime.
Clearly frustrated, Daniel ends up putting the money into the middle since he feels pot committed and loses a pot of almost $600.000.
Gus adds a little needle saying he wasn’t too happy on the flop and another massive poker cooler goes down in the books.
Poker Cooler #7: Phil Ivey vs. Phil Hellmuth (High Stakes Poker)
These two iconic players haven’t been seen playing together much as of late, but back in the High Stakes Poker era, they used to clash all the time.
This hand comes from the season of Hellmuth’s biggest outbursts, and it’s actually strange how well he handled himself this time around.
The hand is straddled to $800, and Tom Dwan decides to call holding just 5c 2s. The Poker Brat decides it’s a good idea to steal across a table filled with sharks and raises to $2.000 with just Jh 5h, which is called by Ivey with his Kh 9h.
Ivey’s call opens things up to a Hoivold call with Js 8s and a dubious call from Tom Dwan with his weak holdings as well.
The flop of 7h 6d 4h gives the two Phils very strong hands, and they quickly eliminate the other players from it.
Hellmuth’s raise on the flop is called by Ivey, and the turn is one of the cards Ivey wanted to see, the Kd.
The Poker Brat shoves in the remainder of his stack, which gets called off by Ivey pretty fast. With so few outs, Hellmuth cannot catch a break as the river gives both players the flush they were waiting for.
The hand was not as big as some of the others on the list, but we would feel bad if we didn’t list at least one time that the great Phil Hellmuth got coolered at the poker tables.