Pokerface

Type of Activity: Problem Solving, Diversity

Purpose: This activity focuses on inclusion and diversity.

Props Needed: A deck of playing cards, preferably jumbo playing cards

Set Up: Plays well with 10 or more. Activity will focus on inclusion and diversity. Shuffle your deck of cards and give one to each participant.  Ask them not to look at the face of the card.

Process: As you explain the directions, ask the participants to hold their card so the face is down towards the floor.  Tell them that in a moment you are going to ask them to place that card to their forehead.  They are not to look at their own card, but everyone else can see their card.  Instruct them that you are going to be intentionally vague with the directions.  Figuring out what to do is a part of the game.

This activity involves the participants mingling around the room, holding their card on their forehead, and treating each other based on the face value of the cards that they see.  You can play this game silently or you can allow talking—both ways are powerful.  Playing the game silently usually has a more powerful impact.  If you choose this option, instruct the group that they do not have the resource of their voice.  Then ask them to place their card to their forehead and say, “Please treat each other based on the face value of the card that you see.  Ready, Go.”

The mingling begins and there is some slight confusion at first.  Some participants are uncertain how to treat others.

Typical behaviors are:

  • The royalty cards are usually bowed down to, given high fives, and generally treated very well.  Most cards want to ‘hang out’ with the high cards.  Usually royalty cards start grouping together.
  • The middle cards are pretty much ignored.  They sometimes get a ‘so-so’ hand motion demonstrated to them or a shrug of the shoulders.
  • The low cards are treated many different ways.  Some get a dismissive hand gesture; some get the letter ‘L’ sign on a forehead depicting ‘Loser.’  Some low cards will get a pretend kick their way or dirty looks by others.  Some will get a thumbs down motion.  These behaviors are obvious and can look somewhat severe to onlookers.  Often participants with low cards will form smaller subgroups and begin to back out of the middle of the mingling area.

After some mingling, ask the participants to stop talking and stand still—DON’T LOOK AT THE CARDS YET!  Ask the group to separate into what group they think they are in, low cards, middle cards, or high cards.  Participants place themselves based on how they were treated.  When everyone is in a group, ask the participants to look around the room at the order of cards on each participant’s forehead, and then look at their own card.

NOTE:  This game can bring up some interesting emotions that you may have to deal with.  These are the teachable moments!  Some teachable moments are more powerful than others for different people.  Keep a watchful eye over all your participants.  Make sure they all leave the activity with their self-esteem intact.

Debriefing Sequence:

Start with the low cards and ask them these questions:

  • What were some behaviors that were done towards you that led you to believe you had a low card?
  • How quickly did you realize you had a low card?

Then move to the middle cards and ask them these questions:

  • What were some behaviors that were demonstrated towards you that led you to believe you had a middle card?
  • How long did it take you to realize what value of card you had?

Then move to the high cards and ask these questions:

  • What were some behaviors that were demonstrated towards you that led you to believe you had a high card?
  • How quickly did you realize you had a high card?

The next round of questioning starts with the high cards, then moves to the middle cards, and then moves to the low cards.  Ask each group this question:

  • After you realized what value of card you had, did it influence the way you played the game?
  • What were some specific behaviors you did towards others because of the value of card you had?

The responses to this question are pretty profound.  Typically the royalty cards report that they treated others poorly because they had the power.  It’s interesting to watch the royalty cards get bowed to and the “2” cards get pushed away and treated poorly.  During the activity the participants with the low cards will usually back out of the middle of the mingling area.  This can lead to a great discussion on one’s willingness to fully participate in a group if they are being treated poorly.

This activity also leads to a great discussion on who places value on you.

  • What happens when people feel left out?   Isn't the “2” card sometimes the most valuable card when playing blackjack and you have a 19?
  • How would the activity be played differently if there were no royalty cards in the deck?
  • If you were running a race wouldn’t you rather be second than tenth?

Debriefing Topics:

  • How did it feel to be a royalty card?
  • How did it feel to be a lower-numbered card?
  • What behaviors did you notice going on in the activity?
  • How were you treated?
  • Did you notice any secluded groups forming?
  • How is this activity like everyday society?
  • Once you realized what kind of card you had, did it influence the way you participated in the activity?

For resources see:  Playing with Full Deck, Setting the Conflict Compass

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