Whenever people hear about me using poker in virtual team events, I usually get one of two reactions:
1.) That sounds cool!
2.) What? Poker isn’t about teams. Why would I ever take a seat at the virtual poker table with my team?
This post is about achieving some clarity and new perspectives, especially for group number 2 (though group 1 won’t complain either).
Now, playing poker in teams can indeed support team building in several ways. When I talk about playing in teams, I’m referring to the so-called Team-Poker-Concept, where people don’t play by themselves BUT in groups of usually 2 or 3 people. This concept was a gift from Corona, as the pandemic forced me to either give up using poker as a team-building method or find a way to transfer the intense experience in tho the virtual environment.
Here are 8 things your team can win at the poker table using the Team-Poker-Concept
- Communication: Playing poker in small teams requires players to communicate effectively with each other. In team poker, players need to share information, discuss strategies, and make decisions collectively. This turns the traditional approach of playing just by yourself upside down and as a result fosters better communication skills within the team, as members learn to express their thoughts clearly and listen to others‘ perspectives. Otherwise, the chance of success drops significantly. Like in business!
- Trust and Collaboration: Trust is the most valuable resource you have in your team. And it’s crucial in team poker as well. Why? Because players must rely on each other’s judgments and actions. Collaborative decision-making becomes essential, as team members need to work together to maximize their chances of winning. Playing poker as a team encourages trust-building activities and helps team members understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And believe me: the common experience of winning and losing (which is part of the game) will make people bond quickly!
- Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: Poker involves making calculated decisions under uncertain circumstances. Information is incomplete and always comes with a price. Team members must analyze the available information, assess risks, and devise strategies collectively. Playing poker helps improve problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities within the team, as members learn to evaluate options and consider different perspectives. And maybe most importantly: Poker teaches you that there is no non-decision, so you better decide yourself or the competition will do it for you.
- Emotional Intelligence: Poker can evoke various emotions, such as excitement, frustration, and disappointment. In a virtual team event – the latter two don’t play a big role. Because we don’t play for money. We play for fun, for learning, for team building. However, by playing poker together, teams can develop emotional intelligence by better understanding their emotions and what drives them. This includes controlling impulses, maintaining composure, and exhibiting empathy towards teammates during both winning and losing situations. They sharpen their awareness towards their attitude concerning winning, losing, or deciding well. This offers personal insight people can walk away with.
- Adaptability and Flexibility: Poker is a dynamic game. Everything can change with every new card dealt or action taken. Players must adapt to changing circumstances. Team poker can teach members to adjust their strategies based on evolving situations, as well as how to adapt to the playing styles and behaviors of opponents. This helps develop a sense of flexibility within the team, enabling them to navigate through unpredictable situations effectively. Understanding and adjusting to other people certainly is a great skill in the people-oriented game called „business“ as well. I bet!
- Goal-Oriented Approach: You can play poker with different goals – especially in a team event setting. It could be fun, learning, making smart choices, or running a bluff against your boss (yep, happens and usually comes with a lot of laughter). Playing poker as a team allows members to align their efforts toward a common objective. This shared goal enhances team cohesion and motivates individuals to work together toward achieving success.
- Analytical Thinking and Risk Assessment: Poker involves analyzing probabilities, calculating odds, and assessing risks. But most of all: it requires you to understand the importance of risk-taking (and feeling it’s necessity if you want to win in any „game“). Team members can enhance their analytical thinking skills and learn to make informed decisions by considering various factors. This ability to evaluate risks and rewards can be transferred to other collaborative projects or tasks within the team.
- Enjoyment and Bonding: Playing poker in teams is tons of fun and enjoyable activity, creating a relaxed environment for team members to interact outside work-related responsibilities. Engaging in enjoyable activities together fosters positive relationships, strengthens bonds, and improves team morale. Can’t remember the last time you have done something for the first time as a team? No? Then poker offers you a wonderful option.
Final and personal note: Coming with years of experience as a former poker pro and working as a trainer/moderator these days, it’s important to note that team poker should be seen as a recreational activity. An activity that promotes teamwork and social interactions. With that attitude in mind, poker – beyond all gambling clichés, turns into a fun means to an end that boosts team spirit, engagement, fun, and (if you want) also business skills. And this is not a bluff. This is my promise!
If you ever want to give it a try, let me know and one day you, your team, and I might meet at the fascinating playing and learning field called „poker table“.
Till then, best wishes and play well,