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7 Ways to Improve Corporate Culture Through Poker

You’ve got a fixed budget, two hours on a Friday afternoon, and a legion of employees whose morale needs a boost. What team building activity would you choose to make sure your staff leaves energized and excited to come back on Monday? Something that’s not the usual cocktails and trivia?

What about hosting a corporate poker party? We’ll train your staff on the rules and basic strategy; you provide a few fun prizes for the big winners (so no money transacts but there’s still something to play for.) At the intersection of game theory and reading emotions, poker has something for everyone. Compatible with remote, hybrid or in-person work spaces, poker is fast-paced online, and equally thrilling live.

Best of all, introducing employees to the game of poker will actually improve your corporate culture in a variety of ways. Here’s how.

1. Employee engagement

In terms of exciting activities that are accessible to all, it doesn’t get much better than poker — poker brings out a competitive spirit in any player. Coworkers who otherwise may not have had anything in common can bond over the common goal of making great plays and conquering the field.

Poker is inclusive by nature, anyone can win with a good strategy and a little luck. And trust us, no matter the official prize, anyone who is recognized among their peers for winning at poker will leave feeling like a million bucks.

2. Cultivating trust

Poker isn’t a team sport, but it does require trust in others. First and foremost, you have to trust that you’re playing a fair game. This is less of a problem at a corporate event but poker’s no fun when the deck is stacked against you.

In a more subtle and strategic sense, you have to take a leap of faith that players will do what they should or what you expect them to. The metagame of a poker table is such that you’re anticipating the moves of your tablemates. If you call a raise with a hand that has to fold to a re-raise, you’re making a calculated judgement that the player(s) left to act aren’t going to re-raise often. Plays like these involve learning about your workmates’ styles and trusting that they’ll behave similarly going forward.

3. Unconscious bias

It’s crucial to train management and employees to be aware of their unconscious biases in order to build a welcoming and productive corporate culture. Poker is the perfect case study for disproving stereotypes that have no reason to be true. Assuming that an elderly player doesn’t have a bluff in her is not only reductive, it also costs you chips when she runs one.

4. Creative and entrepreneurial thinking

Every poker player is their own business. With fixed starting capital (chips) and a unique business plan (in-game strategy,) players look for opportunities to generate revenue amidst risk (positive expected value.) Every poker player is free to be creative in their betting and storytelling, trying to represent a mix of strong and weak hands to keep their opponents indifferent between calling and folding to bets.

5. Ethics and resilience

While poker has defined rules, there’s ample room for interpretation. If a player grabs chips and feigns a bet to see the reaction of her opponents, that’s not technically illegal but most would consider it immoral. Poker sets high temptation to do anything to gain an advantage, but becoming a part of the poker community comes with a habit of doing the right thing in grey areas.

Though poker is entirely skill-based in the long run, players learn to handle bad luck in the short run. Particularly in tournaments, where much of the game is beyond your control, players develop healthy attitudes towards losing a big pot. This will help your staff overcome adversity in the workplace and adapt to the challenges of Covid.

6. Diversity in leadership

Poker is a merit-based game. Prejudices that may hinder progression in a corporation fade at the equalizer that is a poker table. Phil Ivey, an African American pro from Riverside Cali, has led the way for peak performance and innovation in poker for decades. Vanessa Selbst, a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, crushed tournaments so hard that she caught the eye of investment management firms. Corporate poker games are a great way to recognize the talents of individuals who may not be given a fair shake in the traditional workplace.

7. Change management

As employees geek out over the strategy of this easy-to-learn impossible-to-master game, study pods will inevitably emerge. “What do you think of this river spot?” “Do you think Alex from accounting is over-folding?” This type of internal collaboration and regular water cooler chat is the genesis for driving organizational change. Poker games are icebreakers that people develop genuine passion for: a petri dish of ideas.

If this sounds like your type of office party, we can help bring poker to your team! We offer corporate workshops and tournaments for the first and following poker games you host. Join us and discover the power of poker.

Poker Power is for educational purposes and does not permit gambling in our clubs. No poker experience is required.

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