Virtual Team Building Events

Activity Description

The Poker Face Group Game

The Poker Face Group Game can help to explore the behavior within social groups, how we treat each other. Are there expectations and rules we’ve been brought up on that affects the way we treat people? Most of us make up our minds about somebody we meet for the first time almost immediately. We reach these impressions, many times without even saying a word.

This group activity is an exercise in trust, the focus is on diversity and inclusion.

The activity “Poker Face” comes from the card game of poker. In this game others can hide or reveal their intentions just by the expressions on their face. Just how important is our body language and facial expressions when it comes to communication? If we look closely everybody can learn a lot by simply observing others and this is one of the things the group activity, Poker Face explores.

Step by Step Instructions for Poker Face Group Game

  • Hand out some playing cards, one to each member of the group. All participants should not look at their cards. Using a deck of jumbo cards would be the better option for this activity.
  • Each person should now put their card, facing others, onto their foreheads. So, everybody else will be able to see the card except you.
  • Let everybody then get together and mingle with each other
  • All participants will then see the card of the person they are talking to. Each person should then treat the other according to the face value of the card.
  • The fun part is, everybody cannot speak, all interactions must be non-verbal. You are allowed to gesture at each other.
  • This part of the activity can take about one or two minutes, depending on the size of the group. Remember, nobody should look at their own card just yet.
  • Everybody should now move into three different groups, you will have the high value card groups, the middle value group and the lower value group.
  • Once everybody has chosen a group, each person can now look at their own card.
  • This is great for groups to explore subjects like diversity, how you value others and also how you include or exclude others.

How to play Poker Face Game

This is a very easy activity to perform, as you need very little equipment or props. All you would require, is a set of playing cards. Get everybody together and hand one card out to each person participating. The major point to remember here, is to let each person know that they are not allowed to look at their own cards.

Once everybody has their card, the card is now placed on each of their foreheads. The card should be facing outwards so that others can see what is on the card. At this stage the group should start to mingle, each person walking around and interacting with the others. Inform the group that they should treat anybody they interact with, according to what their card value is. The activity can be more challenging by informing participants to engage with others, without any verbal communication, only gestures. The actual value of the card should also not be directly communicated.

It may take a bit of time for participants to get the hang of it, but you will eventually start to notice how each person reacts to another. Some with positive gestures and others negative. This whole interaction period can last from one minute to two minutes. Everybody should now stop mingling, important at this stage, nobody should look at their own card.

Everybody should now move to one of three groups:

  1. High value cards
  2. Middle value cards
  3. Lower value cards

Remember nobody has looked at their own card, so each person is moving to a group they think they belong to. This decision was made by each individual according to their own perceptions, because of the way everybody else was treating them.

Once everybody has chosen one of the three groups, have everybody look around at the others, and then each person can look at their own card. This is where everybody can now make comments and discuss what just happened.

You can also add a number of different variations for this activity, for example:

  • Allow members to talk to each other during the mingling phase.
  • You could take out the royal cards all together and continue with the activity as usual.

Facilitating Tips for Poker Face

When dealing with a group, it always adds a bit more of a challenge if you can be a bit more non-specific with the instructions. Participants will have to figure out what to do, which is a bit more fun.

Since the activity deals with diversity, inclusion and preconceptions, it could elicit some strong emotions. So, when it comes to the final part of the activity where there might be a lot of opinions, it would be advisable to closely monitor the progress of the discussion. There is nothing to really worry about, just be aware that a simple activity like this can create a powerful response from certain members of the group. Keep everything respectful so that everybody leaves still feeling good about the whole experience.

During the discussion, there might be those that express themselves in a discomfiting way. Take for example, the Royalty cards, those who have these cards may act differently to others. They are Royalty, so they may show some disdain for those with lower value cards. Others will also treat them differently, more reverentially, like bowing to them. While those with lower value cards could experience being ignored or just generally being ill-treated.

As the activity progresses, you might even notice those with lower value cards leaving the general mingling area. This is an important point to bring up in the discussion, is a person who is poorly treated in a group really willing to participate further?

During the discussion part of the activity, members of the group may not feel inclined to say anything about the different types of behavior, instead only laugh at the situation. We have all been part of an uncomfortable discussion, so this is basically a defense mechanism, which is meant to relieve any tension. An unresponsive group may also indicate that there are some unhealthy attitudes towards others. Move forward with sensitivity during this type of discussion and be willing to explore these uneasy topics.

See below for some reflections and questions that can help guide you through to finishing off the whole activity.

Questions, tips and reflections

Your game plan can easily include some reflection strategies, each question should be asked in a specific order, as found below. These questions will help the group to process and understand their experience playing the game or activity Poker Face.

Your first batch of questions should be directed towards each group separately, you can start with those in the lower value card group:

  • What certain behaviors did you experience yourself and what did you observe in others that led you to think you had a lower value card, a middle value or higher value card?
  • Did it take you long to come to your conclusion, how long do you think it took before you decided you were a low, middle or high card holder?

Now, again, focus on each group separately but start with the high value card holders, then the middle value card holders and finally the low value card holders. You can ask these questions:

  • So, you think you know what card value you hold, did this affect the way you played the game further?
  • Did your behavior change towards others, explain specifically how your behavior changed?

The answers to these questions can be quite intense and heartfelt, you should then follow up with some or all of these questions:

  • What did it feel like being a royalty card?
  • What did it feel like being a lower value card?
  • While participating in the activity, what behaviors did you notice in others?
  • Do you think you were treated differently?
  • At any time did you observe any groups forming away from everybody else?
  • Were you left out and how did this make you feel? Did this type of treatment affect the way you behaved and influence your thoughts? Try to get answers that are specific.
  • How can you relate this activity to real society today? To help with this question, give some examples.
  • Discuss in what situation, would a low value card have value. For example in blackjack or other card games.

Poker Face Group Activity

Basic Details
Property Type : Team Building
Listing Type : Placeholder
Activity Type : Team Building
Focus On : Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Problem Solving
Outcome Based : Yes
Facilities : Indoor, Outdoor
Duration : 6 - 15 minutes
Exertion Level : Low
Group Size : 1 - 8, 9 - 16
Age : Youth, Adults