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Sales Poker

For this game, you’ll incentivize your sales reps to reach their goals so that they can draw cards from a 52-card deck. Over the course of several weeks, they’ll work to make the best hand of cards in order to beat their teammates and win a prize.

This guide will give you everything you need to create a sales poker contest with your salespeople — including detailed instructions and cheat sheets for download.

Let’s get started.

Why Sales Poker?

Key Benefits

Great for all team types
Good for monthly and quarterly periods
Flexible goal-setting options
Luck element gives everyone a chance to win
Multiple prize distribution options
Endless variations based on real poker rules

A sales poker contest is a great motivational tool because of its versatility in the workplace.

Each team member will play as an individual, giving you the opportunity to distribute one or multiple prizes, and there are countless variations to choose from.

When to choose sales poker

This sales competition is an ideal game of choice in multiple situations, including the following:

  • The team has consistent or recurring KPIs week over week
  • You want to create rewards for task-driven processes
  • The business operates on a monthly cycle
  • Team members enjoy healthy competition with peers

Sales poker contests excel in goal- and task-driven workplaces, where it can act as a sales incentive to boost numbers and internal engagement over a set time frame.

The beauty of this game is that the element of luck means that top performers won’t always win, as is the case with many sales contest ideas. This lack of opportunity for the mid-to-low performers keeps the game from improving their sales performance.

With sales poker — as with the actual game — the random outcome of the deck draw levels the playing field. The game rewards top performers with more opportunities to build a better poker hand for the duration of the contest, but that flexibility doesn’t guarantee a victory.

Is sales poker right for your team?

Unlike structured games like Mystery Mess, sales poker is a great fit for most teams because of its flexibility.

Whether your team is in the office or calling on customers in a direct sales role, this game can be tailored to fit any environment.

Game administrators and sales managers can control for elements like cheating or dishonest behavior by using verifiable metrics or, if based in a group environment, can have other representatives validate task completion in real time.

Gameplay Setup & Scenarios

Required Materials

Instructions & gameplay sheet (download here)
One or more decks of playing cards

Ground rules for sales poker

As with other sales games in our directory, the first step to a great round of sales poker is to explain the rules and how the competition works.

If you’re looking for a good starting point, our downloadable guide gives you everything you need to set up a competitive sales poker game with your team.

It’s important that everyone from the management team to the sales reps understands that sales poker is not a gambling game. There are no actual stakes for sales poker other than the prizes provided by the company at the end of the month.

The easiest and most straightforward way to play the game is to remove any card exchange elements or re-draws and allow players to keep every card they draw.

This means that players will receive 10-15 cards over the course of scheduled gameplay, and they can build their best hand using a guide that you provide for them (included below).

In order to receive new cards and improve their hands, sales reps will need to earn the right to draw from the deck. They can do this by completing specific tasks, selling a specific dollar amount, or achieving some other metrics-based sales goal that is set up by the game administrator.

In many cases, it may make sense to stick with the usual metrics and goals that your team pursues on a regular basis. On the other hand, you may be able to encourage different behaviors by changing things up and using sales poker as a motivator.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine which approach works best for your team. Remember: Your goals should be achievable because player progress is tied to goal completion. Goals that are too difficult can exclude a portion of your team from completing even a basic five-card hand required to participate.

If you want to reward top performers in a unique way, consider variations (below) that allow players to swap cards or redraw their hand when reaching stretch goals.

Metrics vs tasks

As with most other games, you’ll want to strike a balance between metric-driven goals and completable tasks. This may be a challenge, but it’s ultimately worthwhile.

By offering a way forward that doesn’t involve closing a deal or reaching a certain sales goal, mid- and bottom-tier performers can participate and have a chance to win.

For a sales organization, using non-sales tasks to advance the game might seem counterintuitive — and that may be the case if players have a way to win without ever reaching their sales goals.

With sales poker, the easy way to prevent this behavior is to add a cap to the number of non-sales tasks that can be used to advance.

Consider this

For example, in order to have a successful hand, players need at least five cards by the time the contest closes. Since that’s the case, create five non-sales oriented tasks that players can accomplish in order to meet that minimum requirement. These tasks can be anything from cleaning up CRM records to tidying up the office.

It’s also possible to create sales goals that are tailored to the individual. Keep in mind that even though sales reps are competing with other team members, they’re also competing against their past performance.

With sales poker, it’s easy to use indicators of past performance to create and reward personalized metrics for success.

To do this, use a percentile goal as a target rather than a high sales number. Reward any member of your sales force who can increase sales by 5% week over week from their previous quarter. This means that low performers don’t have to hit the highest sales numbers in the company to win a prize. They just need to outperform their own record of sales activity to succeed.

Ultimately, you can still reward the completion of traditional goals and metrics, but a poker contest gives you the ability to approach sales gamification in a way that can be tailored to every member of your sales team.

Choosing prizes

As with any sales contest, prizes and rewards are a huge motivator for your team, and sales poker can be a game where prizes are awarded in both small and large quantities.

For many teams, the most logical prize is a gift card. With sales poker, it’s possible to award multiple prizes based on hand quality.

As you may notice when looking at card values in poker, it’s very difficult to create a hand of equal value. If multiple players produce a hand with a pair, the highest-value pair wins. If all pairs are the same (statistically unlikely), the next highest card outside the pair determines the winner.

For management teams and sales organizations that are used to rewarding a single grand prize, the categorical ranking structure that a poker contest provides can be an opportunity to hand out multiple awards.

To do this, create a prize for the best hand, but offer competitive prizes for the top five (or more) hands presented at the end of the competition.

Three of a kind@2x

Variations

Though we touched on it earlier, here are a few additional ways to mix things up or increase difficulty.

The downloadable instruction guide at the bottom of this page shows you how to play a sales poker contest with a variation on a straight draw.

In our version, players end up with a total of 15 cards during the contest — drawing from several decks — and make the best poker hand possible out of the cards they are dealt.

However, this isn’t the only way to play.

Communal Cards
Texas hold’em is the most popular poker game in the world. If you want to limit the number of cards that your sales reps can draw or add a little variation to the game that you control, use communal cards that everyone must use in order to make their best hand.

Remote Play
Need a way to keep in touch with remote teams? If you are playing remotely, take photos of the cards and send them to reps over email.

Shorter Gameplay
You can control the length of the game by limiting the number of cards that players can draw before the game closes.

This approach can keep the game from getting redundant both for new sales teams without a long track record of success and for fast-moving teams where team members are constantly rotating between roles.

How To Play

Now that the implementation basics are out of the way, let’s talk about how to actually play the game. You’ll need to introduce these steps to your team to make sure they understand everything before the game begins.

Because sales poker is more flexible than many other games, you should take some time to plan out the more detailed elements of the game before you introduce it to the team. To do so, answer these basic questions:

  • How long should the game run?
  • Are you rewarding one or multiple prizes?
  • Should players have the opportunity to exchange cards?
  • What tasks, goals, or metrics result in a card draw?
  • Are drawn cards visible to every member of the team?

Once you have those basic questions answered, you’ll have a good idea of the type of game you want to play.

Some basic rules, like the ability to exchange cards, may require additional management from game administrators. These perks can also be built into the game as rewards for high performance or used in place of drawing additional cards. You should work out those details before introducing the game.

The bottom line is that you can play sales poker in whatever way is most comfortable for your team.

Use that flexibility to your advantage.

Introducing the game

To set up the game, you’ll need to introduce it, along with the appropriate assets.

Explain how your version of sales poker works, present a list of poker hands, and explain the game mechanics for individuals who have never played poker before.

Emphasize here that sales poker is not a gambling game. There are no stakes beyond what the company provides. There is no way for players to bluff one another, no reason to fold, and no penalty for losing. Everyone can and should play to the end of the competition.

Show players what prizes are available to win, and take this opportunity to talk about goals. If you have specialized rules around exchanging or redrawing cards, explain those here.

Leave time for questions, and be ready to clarify if certain elements of the game are unresolved.

Once everyone is on the game page, set your metrics and start playing.

Setting the rules

This includes discussing the start and end times for any metric- or task-driven rewards, any guidelines around cheating, misrepresentation, smack talk, and anything else.

As a rule, good-natured ribbing and competition are fine, but you’ll want to draw clear lines around acceptable behavior if you think the competition might turn sour.

Resolving conflicts

Before the game begins, be sure that you have a plan in place for resolving conflicts.

Depending on your metrics, goals, and objectives, it may be easy for players to fudge their success rate.

For example, if you asked a sales rep to call twenty customers but have no way to track it, you have no way to verify that they actually completed the work. Trackable goals, like hard sales numbers or verifiable results reduce the ability for players to game the system.

While sales contests are supposed to be good-natured, it’s easy for a mean-spirited player to ruin the fun. At the same time, you won’t want to disenfranchise team members who are operating in good faith.

Celebrating wins

For players, winning the prize will be the objective of the game, but that isn’t the case for sales leaders.

Take the opportunity to celebrate wins where you see them. If a traditional underperformer meets their sales goal or a new team member figures out how to gather referrals on her sales calls in order to reach a stretch goal or task, celebrate those wins.

While sales poker can provide short-term motivation for the team, it can deliver long-term results by raising self-esteem and reinforcing best practices within your sales group.

Be sure to capitalize on those wins.

Creating coaching & feedback opportunities

As a sales leader, you also have the opportunity to focus on new team objectives and help everyone succeed.

By seeing which team members complete which tasks or achieve unexpected success in their metrics, you can better understand how your team operates and what motivates them to succeed.

From there, you can help them work toward developing long-term career skills by providing positive feedback and advice that reinforce the correct behavior.

To build trust with your team, it’s important to position yourself as a resource available to all team members. Use the contest as a talking point and discover new ways to help your sales reps succeed.

Download your Sales Poker resources and start playing!

Ready to get started?

Download a copy of IncentivePilot’s sales poker contest assets and guides. Inside, you’ll find gameplay instructions for a round of sales poker, as well as a list of poker hand rankings.

The packet has everything a small or medium size sales team needs to get up and running in a few minutes.

If you’re trying to administer games at scale, sales poker may not scale well out of the box because sales managers need to keep track of hands for multiple players.

When playing with a large team, especially over an extended term, it may be easier to use digital playing cards (rather than real cards) and automate the reward process with software.

If that sounds like a better fit, consider getting in touch with our team to learn how IncentivePilot can help you run sales games and other incentive programs across your entire enterprise organization.

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