Three ways to use Poker Planning cards

Published 10/13/2022

The concept of poker planning as a consensus-based and gamified way for estimating complexity originated over 20 years ago and is widely used by agile teams to gain consensus about the complexity of a feature or task. 

Even before the early 2000s, consensus-based estimation was in use since the 1950s via the Wideband Delphi Process.

By using cards or other hidden techniques, we can get a true estimation because individuals select their chosen score in isolation before sharing all at once as a group. This mitigates anchoring and other biases that might distort a genuine result. 

By seeing the degree of consensus or dissensus among the group, we can then dig deeper into why people have different views and perspectives that lead them to score the way they did. All adding to the learning experience!  

The cards have numbers on them that follow the Fibonacci sequence. The reason for using numbers that progress in value so steeply is so that when comparing tasks there’s a clear difference between them which is typically a bit more than double or a bit less than double the effort. The lack of precision is intended to achieve consensus vs exact translation from the number on the card to the actual time, cost or value etc.

How we use them at X is Y

We use Poker Planning cards in a variety of ways. Not only for estimating complexity, but for feasibility, risk, value - anything where it is useful to gain an understanding of how tough or valuable something might be to do. They enable us to have valuable discussions about what different views people might have. 

If Sarah thinks task X is a 5 and Ahmed thinks it's a 13, what does Ahmed know that Sarah doesn’t, or vice versa? 

The key outcome of this exercise is to learn from one another, agree on something and then ultimately to translate that into a comparative sequence of effort in a plan.

The following are some examples of how we use Poker Planning Cards at X is Y.

Technical Feasibility Estimation

The classic way of using Poker Planning Cards.

Step 1: Take a technical task (we do this for data quality and availability often) that the team has done before and describe it to the team. 

Step 2: Get the team to choose a number that denotes how feasible it is to do.

Step 3: Count 1, 2, 3, SHOW and get each team member to show their card at the same time. 

Step 4: Reconcile differences through discussion and agree (if possible) and score for that task.

Step 5: Pick the next task, and repeat Steps 2 - 4 using the first task as an example. “Is it more or less feasible than Task 1?”

Business Feasibility Estimation

Using the classic way but for business.

Same steps as above but instead the question is for how feasible is it for the business to adopt a thing we are creating. 

For example we do this when we are estimating “to what extent do the business users have known, understood and agreed metrics and definitions against a goal?” OR “To what extent does a well-defined process exist where this dashboard can be embedded and used to take action?”

Business Value Estimation

How valuable is this thing?

Again, same steps as above but with the question of “How valuable is this to our team/business/stakeholders?”


These are just three ways you can use your Poker Planning Cards, there are many more. Be sure to drop us a note with new ways you’ve discovered to improve learning, make decisions and make progress! 

Want your own pack of Poker Planning cards? Get in touch with your details and we’ll send a pack your way.

Set of poker planning cards for estimating complexity, feasibility, risk, value and more.

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