The HR department at the company where I work my full-time job is fantastic. They’re always looking for ways to spice things up around the office, offering us popsicles and ice cream on hot summer days, organizing group exercise walks in the mornings, running caption contests and “best picture” contests among the employees, and having themed catered lunches brought in once a month, among other exciting surprises. There’s even an amazing annual two-day trip they plan that everyone looks forward to. Recently, however, the HR people really outdid themselves when they decided to hold a company poker tournament. What was extra special about the event is that it was done in a hybrid fashion, with the initial stage of the tournament taking place online and the final stage of the tournament being played out live. Specifically, as we work for the company that runs Titan Poker, it turned out to be an excellent fit for us all.
Holding a company-wide live poker tournament could, in principle, be a labor-intensive endeavor. The more employees there are, the more tables, chips, dealers, and general poker equipment would be needed to make the event happen. Moreover, if you’ve ever played in a live tournament you’ll know that it takes a good amount of time until the field is whittled down to the final table. Rather than a relatively brief, fun event, it would become that much more of a long grind for all participants.
All of these logistical issues become serious obstacles to holding a company poker tournament in the first place, and that’s my guess as to why they’re relatively uncommon. Thus, adding in the preliminary online poker element to the tournament is precisely what made the entire idea work so well at my company. I’m convinced the idea would work swimmingly at other companies too.
Stage 1 – Online Poker at Titanpoker.com
Using our own online poker software of course, about 60 of us registered to take part in the tournament. No money was at stake, but it was plenty exciting just to be able to play – during work hours no less! As an added incentive, the company sponsored some great prizes for whoever would finish in the top 3 spots (a shopping voucher, restaurant voucher, and B&B getaway voucher).
We were informed that the tournament would begin online at 4 pm, towards the end of the work day, and that the tournament clock would stop as soon as the field got down to 18 players. With 8-minute blind levels, there was ample time for good, solid poker play, while simultaneously the action definitely moved at a nice clip.
Just to relate something funny that happened, there was a scheduled five-minute break after the first hour of play. As soon as it was break time, whoever was still alive in the tournament could be seen rushing to the bathrooms. I don’t think I had ever seen a line for the company urinals until that day! J
Anyhow, it took just a bit over two hours until the “bubble girl” was eliminated in 19th place, and the remaining 18 players (I among them, holding steady in 12th) advanced to the live stage of play, which would take place the following day, also starting at 4 pm.
Stage 2 – Live Poker on the Roof
There was a general buzz about the office the following day, as those of us who made it to the live stage of the poker tournament were naturally very excited. For those players who didn’t make the cut, as well as those employees who had preferred not to take part in the tournament at all, HR had hired a casino events company to set up other casino game tables like roulette, blackjack, and even a couple slot machines. Everyone tried to win as much play money as possible, which would then be converted into raffle tickets for other prizes.
Added to that, there was great music playing and plenty of drinks and snacks for all the employees to enjoy while playing and having fun up on the roof, where the event was held.
The “real action” (for me at least) was happening at the two professional poker tables, where 18 of us butted heads. Since live poker moves more slowly than online poker, blind levels were upped to 15 minutes. As an aside, I’ll say it was nice to meet some other employees whose faces I had seen before but whose names and roles at the company I had no idea about.
While I do feel as though using my Poker Notes Live app gave me an advantage over my colleagues in this portion of the tournament, sadly I don’t have a winner’s picture to include, nor did I make it to the final 3 and win a prize. I ended up finishing a quite respectable 6th place though after getting knocked out at around 6:30 pm, but I nonetheless really had a blast playing. Less than half an hour later a winner was crowned.
An Enjoyable Company Poker Event with a Format that Works
It bears repeating, our HR department really did outdo themselves with this online/live hybrid poker tournament. They got employees excited and buzzing before, during, and after the event, and they did it all while allocating just 2–3 hours each day over two days.
I believe that the keys to success here were starting the fun and games towards the end of each workday while also ensuring that things didn’t spill over too late into the evening.
With a poker tournament as the main attraction, which is something guaranteed to rev up the excitement of any employee in any company, clearly the logistics of it could only have been pulled off by starting off the event online.
If you’re an HR rep or just an employee in a mid- to large-sized company who’s looking to inject some fun and excitement into a future event, I definitely think it’s worth investigating the possibility of staging an online/live hybrid poker tournament. To help make matters easier logistically, you could get in touch with the online poker site’s support staffers, who will surely be happy to set up a private no-cost, password protected tournament for you.
Best of all, regardless of who emerges victorious in the poker tournament, all company employees end up being the big winners!