Business Team-Building: Why a Group Poker Game is Still So Effective

The pandemic has brought dramatic changes to the ways we approach our work and maintain connections. Seemingly by the day, more teams are embracing remote working or opting for hybrid models. These are valuable solutions in many respects, but in many cases they’ve also made it hard for teams to maintain their usual levels of morale and productivity.

The fostering of strong bonds and collaboration between employees separated by distance can be difficult. These obstacles can be overcome, however, with a little creative thinking. Even before the pandemic, old-fashioned traditions of team building (name games and the like) were fading into the past. Rather than rely on these traditions, forward-thinking business leaders have embraced new (and frankly more interesting) ideas, like taking their teams paintballing, hiking, or even mountain climbing in order to build camaraderie. It has also become trendy to organize office outings to escape rooms –– with an article on USA Today reporting in 2018 that the U.S. had opened some 2,000 such facilities in just three years’ time!

In between the old-fashioned exercises and the new trends though, one tried-and-true method remains particularly effective: team poker games. Below, we’ll speak to why this is such a good option for teams seeking to build cohesion.

Using Poker to Bring People Together

Team-building exercises must cater to everyone, and while escape rooms and the like can be effective, it’s easy for people with less dominant personalities to feel overshadowed and ignored amidst these activities. Group poker, on the other hand, allows everyone on the team to feel involved.

Poker being as old and traditional as it is, almost everyone has some level of understanding of the rules. Particularly in the last 20 years or so, Texas Hold’em has become almost like chess or checkers, in that everyone more or less knows how to play, even without spending much time on the game. Furthermore, those who may not know the game can pick it up quickly. The basics of Texas Hold’em are easy to grasp: Each player is dealt two cards, and three cards are laid out for anyone or everyone to use at once. In between rounds of betting (which of course doesn’t have to involve real money), fourth and fifth community cards are laid out. At the end, each player who hasn’t folded uses his or her two cards and any three community cards to present the strongest possible hand.

Sure, the intricacies take a little time. But anyone can play!

Strengthening Bonds

Team building is all about crafting strong relationships so that team members can rely on each other. Poker puts employees in a situation where they can relax and have fun with each other in a non-judgmental setting –– and, more so than a lot of more contrived team-building activities, allows people to be themselves and let their natural characters blossom.

People with more dominant or rigid personalities can be nudged into a more relaxed state; quieter, more reserved team members can be afforded a boost of confidence with a win; someone who’s all business in the office may even crack a joke or a smile upon winning a hand off a superior. The idea, more or less, is that poker presents an even playing field where people can be themselves.

Upskilling with Poker

While poker is a fun game and a way to let off steam, it can also be a valuable learning tool. Poker teaches critical skills and strategies that can be particularly useful in the workplace. Patience is needed to improve strategy; social intuition is required to read opponents; and every player has to do a fair amount of self-evaluation from one game to the next.

A few years ago, a report on noted that employees want better training, but that only 18% of “average” business leaders were supplying adequate training to “exceed customer expectations.” Now, the sort of training implied in these findings goes beyond what employees glean from the occasional poker game. Nevertheless, the report speaks to a lack of intellectual engagement that poker can at least help to address. Employees want to feel that they’re getting better at what they do, and this particular team-building activity can contribute.

Where to Host Your Game

In a recent post on the ‘Top Benefits That You Can Get By Holding the Meeting Outside Office, we noted that workplaces simply have “different vibes.” Taking teams outside of the workplace reduces stress and makes collaboration (and general good spirits) more likely. This calls to mind the final benefit of poker as a team-building activity, which is that it can pretty much be done anywhere.

Poker is equally enjoyable at a restaurant or bar table, outside on a picnic table, or even at a campfire. For that matter, while it is most traditionally an in-person game, video conferencing programs like Zoom and Teams can also help remote teams to play virtually.

Workers that feel isolated and lonely are more likely to produce poor results, and ultimately leave your company. If you want to harness the true potential of your workforce, rekindle enthusiasm, and build cohesive teams, then holding group events of this nature should be at the top of your list.

Post Author: Ellie Eric