Ice Cold Cooler

Poker is 100% skill and 100% luck. I can play the odds, make the correct moves, and still find myself with the short end of the stick. Consider taking a road trip from New York to Los Angeles. You make plans, ensure your vehicle is operating safely, plug in the final destination, and go. These steps are in your control (100% skill). But when your car breaks down halfway through the trip, you will no longer reach Los Angeles when originally planned (100% luck).

A cooler is when both players make the right play, but only one player wins. Both players used their skill to put themselves in the appropriate position, but only one was lucky enough to win the Pot.


I’m in The Big Blind holding As-Qd with about 39 big blinds. Blinds and antes are $2000/$10000/20000. As mentioned last week, A-Q is a strong enough hand with 4 players left to be all-in pre-Flop. It would be unlucky for another player to have a stronger hand than A-Q, like A-K, A-A, K-K, or Q-Q in this situation, although it does happen. See the other player’s stacks and position:

  • Player 122 – 24 big blinds, Cutoff position
  • Player 273 – 17 big blinds, Button position
  • Player 21 – 42 big blinds, Small Blind position

If Player 122 raises or calls, then I will put him all-in. If he moves all-in, then I will call. See above that A-Q is losing to a very short list of pre-Flop hands. This means that A-Q will have the advantage or be 50% against all other hands which is a situation we want to be in. Player 122 would make these plays with any pocket pair, any ace, and hands like K-J and K-Q. The same applies for Player 273 from The Button.

If the action folds to Player 21 in The Small Blind and he raises or calls, then I’ll raise in an effort to be all-in against him. In a 4-handed game, I’ll treat A-Q like I would A-K in a 9-handed game. Although he has a much bigger stack than the others, my range of hands widens even more in a blind vs. blind situation; A-Q is even stronger when the hand is The Small Blind vs. The Big Blind. See “The Blinds Leading the Blinds” for more information on how hands change when played in blind vs. blinds positions, the most important being that your hand is stronger with only one other player to beat.   

If Player 122 or 273 moves all-in and a player to the right calls in front of me (Player 122 moves all-in followed by Player 273 moving all-in), then I will move all-in as well. It’s likely that I’m dominating both players. (ex: Player 122 moves all-in with K-Q, Player 273 moves all-in with A-J)


Player 122 folds, Player 273 moves all-in, Player 21 folds, and the action is on me. This is an easy call and it’s likely that I’m dominating in this position.


I make then call and Player 273 flips over A-K, one of the very few hands that was beating me pre-Flop. The runout does not improve my hand and I’m left with 23 big blinds. It was a cooler.

The biggest mistake players make after taking a cooler is to go on tilt and blow the rest of their tournament. I still have plenty of chips and can get first place using the same strategies that got me here. Remember to stay patient and that in the near future you will be on the winning side.


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