The Secrets of casinos (XXIX) – How cool are the coolers?

Monday, 23 July 2018

Many of us use “cool” when we praise someone or something. In an unofficial dictionary, the word is defined as: great, extraordinary, formidable, amazing. Cool

In gambling terms, a casino “cooler” is an individual down on his luck or who may bring bad luck to others, usually a casino collaborator, and the presence of whom at gambling tables only disrupts the activity of other players.


Here is a short history of an American blackjack player on the website: “Last weekend I went to a casino to play blackjack. I took a seat at a $25 table and the battle started with the dealer.


Right from the beginning, after the very first few hands, I realized it was one of those days when I cannot lose. I was actually under the 21 limits, while the dealer regularly exceeded it and I also had a few perfect doubles or advantageous splits. At a certain point, an man of an average age came to the table and asked me if it’s going well and if I’m winning. I don’t believe in superstitions, so I asked him to join me. He was a bit surprised and took out $200 for chips and then got into the game.


I, however found it odd, that the dealer did not ask him for his player’s card, which he had did for other before him. After he sat down at the table, the stranger started a conversation with me, asking me where I am from and where do I usually play. I answered politely and asked the same of him. He told me he was from a small town in Georgia. I asked from where exactly, as I knew the area well and had had various businesses there. In that moment, he became very vague, as if he realized that I had caught him in the lie.


He played a few more hands and then he got up and left. In turn, I won a few more bucks and went to dinner. After dinner, I decided to try my luck at the high-stakes tables. I made a $5000 buy-in, which I doubled in a short amount of time. I, once again, realized that it was one of those days in which I simply cannot lose. I made a few calls, played a few more hands and the stranger showed up again.


To my surprise, I did no expect to see him at a high-stakes table. He asks me again how I am and how I’m doing, I answer politely, still believing he is just a tourist who is trying his luck in search for adrenaline. The table I was playing at had a minimum stake of $100 and a maximum of $10,000. For the second time, the dealer does not ask him for his player’s card, which, in my case, he had. At that moment, I started to suspect that he may be an employee of the casino who was trying to see if I was doing anything wrong, or a “cooler”, of which I had only heard about in movies.


I once again asked him where did he live in Georgia and when is he going back and his answer was just as vague. He told me he lives somewhere in the suburbs and the will be flying back in a few days. I even tried to bring my spirits up and proposed that I buy him a drink. He asked for water and started betting on the minimum stake. He seemed a lot more preoccupied by my bets than his. Luck continued to be on my side, as I won several thousand dollars and joked that he was bringing me good luck. I was more and more to think that he was a casino employee and I overbid, saying that I should pay him a commission so that would join me at every table. At that moment, he said that he has to get back home to his wife as soon as possible. There were several other hands played, he won $2,000, I lost $14,000, after which he got up and disappeared.”


Coolers are rather an urban legend, but it is not a surprise that players believe in their existence. In principle, the cooler is a persons which creates the illusion of randomness and has the mission to compromise the win of lucky players.


The notion of cooler is a secret kept with such care by those who know the secrets of casinos, that there is barely and information on the matter. Actually, the American movie “The Cooler”, which screened in 2003, sort of represents the only cinematic reference made to this subject.


In this movie, Bernie is employed by Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) – the manager of the casino located in the city center, the Shangri-La, as a cooler. That is, when someone wins too much of the casino’s money, Bernie goes to work. He buys the winner a drink or just moves around the player and leaves the curse of his presence to work its dark magic. There is a great scene in the movie in which the camera follows Bernie through the casino, while he ruins days and nights of wins for certain people, only by means of his mere presence.


There is also an article entitled The Cooler: The Real Story written by Kenny Pearlman for The Las Vegas Dealer, but this too is fictional, despite certain very detailed descriptions of the atmosphere in the casinos in the ‘60s.


We can even speak about an Emotional Cooler, that person which is capable of stimulating an individual’s bad luck and to break his concentration. By means of various methods, starting from the most subtle and refined to grossly irritating a player. The purpose is psycho-emotional imbalance, at any cost.


I am not sure if it is a certified thing or clearly observed, but there can even be a gorgeous young lady offering you a drink on the house. When you win, when you have a good run and you gained a large number of chips. We all know, even without being experienced players, that alcohol and gambling don’t mix well together, even if in the movies this picture is painted differently. Another typical manner of distracting one’s attention which is used in casinos is that of sending an opposite sex person, extremely attractive, just to talk to you and obviously, to distract you from the game. Is it a “cooler” or just an employee doing their job?


Regardless how fun or scary you may perceive the idea of a casino cooler to be, the truth is that it’s just a myth. Most times, when certain people start playing poorly and cannot be consistent in strategies, they start making absurd associations. In other words, the fact that you started losing once a new person sits down at the table makes you so angry that, instead of analyzing the game and correcting your mistakes, you start looking for a scapegoat. It’s a lot more simple to blame a “cooler” than to admit that you played poorly, am I right?


Even if the “cooler” is a myth, even if it’s all imagination, you have to know and be aware of the fact that any casino uses techniques to make you lose money. Occasional player or high-roller, you’re an important customer to the casino.

by Mircea Panait

Author: Editor

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