If we talk about frustrating plays in poker, you will immediately think of the bad beat or the cooler. The truth is that they are two of the situations that nobody wants to live in a poker table, but poker is sometimes capricious and, if a series of circumstances occur during the game, you may find yourself in the situation of losing with a very good hand.
But a bad beat is not the same as a cooler. So that you have it clear, we are going to make a summary with the main differences and what it entails both to be in the middle of a bad beat and to suffer a painful cooler after an excellent game.
Before getting into the subject, here is a brief explanation of what each of these concepts means, which are very present especially in the Texas Hold’em modality. Both are used to describe unfortunate situations that can occur during a game and, more specifically, to scenarios in which a player loses a hand despite having strong cards. Both terms are part of poker slang and are situations that any player will experience at some point if they play long enough.
However, there are some differences between cooler and bad beat.
What is a cooler in poker?
A cooler is a situation where two players have very strong hands, but one of them has a slightly better hand. In these cases, it is almost impossible for either player to avoid putting all their chips in the middle.
A classic example of a cooler would be when one player has a set (three cards of the same value) and the other player has a higher set. In these situations, it is very difficult for either player to avoid losing a large amount of chips, as both players have exceptionally strong hands.
If you want to learn more about cooler in poker, you will be interested in our article Cooler in poker: what it is and examples.
What does bad beat mean in poker?
A bad beat is a situation in which a player with a significantly stronger hand loses against an opponent with a weaker hand who manages to improve on the river or turn.
In other words, the player with the weaker hand had little chance of winning, but benefits from a lucky beat. A classic example of a bad beat would be when a player with a pair of aces loses to someone who has a pair of deuces and draws another two on the river to make a set.
If you want to know more about bad beat in poker, take a look at our article Bad beat in poker: what it is and examples.
Key differences between cooler and bad beat in poker
Having defined both concepts, we will now point out the main differences between cooler and bad beat in poker. In general terms, we could point out the following aspects.
- Inevitability: In a cooler, it is almost inevitable that both parties lose a large amount of chips due to the strength of their hands. In a bad beat, the player with the stronger hand could have avoided losing if the community cards had been different.
- Probability: Bad beats are generally more unlikely than coolers. In a bad beat, the player with the weaker hand has to be very lucky to win.
- Frustration: Bad beats are usually more frustrating because you feel you should have won the hand, while in a cooler, it is easier to accept defeat since both players had strong hands.
In addition to these, we can point out other qualities that make these terms, although very similar to each other, show differences:
The role of community cards
Although in both cases the community cards play their role, in the bad beat they have more importance than in the cooler because it is the river that gives the plot twist to the hand in the showdown.
In a cooler, the flop, the turn and the river make the two players materialize their premium projects and one of the two, despite their good hands, loses, but in the cooler, it is not the central cards that make the hand a losing one, but it is gestated during the whole round.
That makes what happens in a bad beat more unpredictable than what takes place in a cooler, as we will now see.
The predictability of losses
In the bad beat the losses are more unpredictable. We are talking about a premium hand that is expected to win and that is beaten at the last moment by the community cards and the river, which gives the victory to the hand that was originally the loser.
Although the anticipation factor in poker is important, once the round has reached the showdown there is no way to avoid the consequences of either a cooler or a bad beat. The cards have played their role and now it’s time to talk. One of the two, despite having an excellent hand, will leave empty-handed.
A cooler can be predicted; a bad beat is more difficult to predict.
Let’s take the term “predictable” with a grain of salt, because it is not always the case. But, while a bad beat is not visible until the river, a cooler you can guess it if you have good odds and outs calculations.
This will allow you to prepare yourself for a possible clash of the titans at showdown if the result of your odds and outs count contemplates a possible cooler for your villain and for you. A bad beat, on the other hand, you will not see it coming until the opponent shows his cards in the final showdown.
A bad beat leaves a 100% loser; in a cooler, the loser is more blurred
A bad beat leaves a clear winner and an unexpected loser, but in a cooler, you can get stuck until you know who the winner and loser are. Why? Because in a cooler, the two players facing each other in the showdown tie the same hand, and to break the tie you have to resort to the hierarchy of cards.
A bad beat, on the other hand, causes the defeat of one of them by forming a hand that is not necessarily identical to that of the opponent.
That is to say: in a cooler, one of the players loses by having the same hand as his opponent. In a bad beat, the winner and loser usually have different hands.
They don’t tilt the same way
Rivers of ink have been written about whether a bad beat or a cooler will tilt more. There are many factors that can tip the balance one way or the other.
Some say that the bad beat tilts more because you get the reality check at the last moment of the round.
Others argue that cooler beats tip more because you lose with the same hand as your opponent, sometimes premium hands like straight flushes (the possibility is remote, but there it is).
The truth is that both are susceptible to tilt, which must be avoided at all costs. Because both the cooler and the bad beat led to losses for one of the players, so both test the mental endurance of the players.