November 20, 2014

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Poker as a corporate event? I thought they we’re kidding, until….

Last weekend I went to my yearly work “team-building” event. Needless to say, I hadn’t been looking forward to it. For me, the ideal team-building event would be a few pints, fries, and good conversation at the local watering hole with my team. Every year they try to make us do something exciting and different that more often than not goes terribly wrong (I still remember the gigantic bruise caused by my paintball on our receptionist’s cheek). But strangely enough, this year, they got it right. We had a poker night. Here’s why it worked:

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It’s hilarious watching people try to lie

A good poker player plays the players, not the game. This becomes hysterical when you watch your accounts manager trying to hide a really good hand. Call me crazy, but I think one of the best ways to get to know someone is by trying to figure out if they’re lying or not. This is especially funny when you have people who are obviously really bad at it. Needless to say, none of us were world poker champion worthy and therefore had lots of difficulty maintaining straight faces. But that’s what made it such a good time.

It’s an icebreaker that’s not unbearably cheesy

Yes, we’ve all been to those conferences where we needed to tell someone we had just met a truth and a two lies. It’s awkward at best and painful at its worst. At poker night, the tables held a good mix of people from each of our departments. Since, we all had a focus (the game), conversation flowed naturally without all the awkwardness. (And, of course, we were all trying to figure out who was lying the entire time…)

It’s competitive but not TOO competitive

Since we were all amateurs, there wasn’t a $1,000 buy-in. We were allocated our chips and competed for the various (actually desirable) prizes. This was great because no one left that evening having to explain to their wives/husbands/partners why they no longer had a car, yet it gave enough of a push for everyone at the table to actually want to win. Even winning with allocated chips can feel like a major victory when you do it at the last minute with the river. And since there wasn’t any serious losing going on, everyone at the table was actually genuinely pleased when shy receptionist (yes, of the paintball debacle) won her first hand.

It was the whole package

As soon as I stepped into the hall, I knew it was going to be good. There were professional dealers at immaculately set up tables with shiny new chips and cards. These were experienced dealers who gave a quick yet thorough run down of the game for the beginners and a short refresher for those of us who may have needed a bit of a reminder of which hand beat which.

Guess who ended up going home with a brand-spanking-new 300 piece chip set. Next year, I’m going for the glass trophy!

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