My Planning Poker Deck

Last month I found myself with time on my hands with a laminating machine at my disposal. This was the perfect opportunity to solve a (trivial) requirement for my Scrum team. We have recently introduced Planning Poker into our estimation sessions and it has really worked for us. Planning Poker has allowed us to reach consensus on estimates quickly without anchoring each other. It is also great for getting the whole team involved. In addition post-sprint analysis shows our estimates have improved in quality. So Planning Poker is here to stay in our team. However, the paper cards I had printed up for the initial sessions were not going to last long. What we needed was a hard-wearing Planning Poker deck.

There are some great decks for sale at various places including:

I also have a nice deck that SkillsMatter gave away with their training materials. Impressive though these decks are I wanted my own unique set with my specific choice of story point values and the like. To have that I’d have to design a deck and manufacture it myself. Plus I usually have 5-6 estimators which means buying two standard decks (they usually only accomodate up to four estimators each). Making six decks isn’t much more work than making four once you get into the swing of it.

The great thing about designing your own deck is that you can pick any metaphor that you want to represent sizes. I really like the t-shirt size metaphor so decided to go with that. However, this was just to put a picture on the face of the cards. The story point numbers would also be present and were the usual modified fibonacci sequence. Adding in a few extra cards found in many commercial decks I settled on the following:

  • Size 0 – 0 story points, story is done
  • XS – ½ story point
  • S – 1 story point
  • M – 2 story points
  • L – 3 story points
  • XL – 5 story points
  • 2XL – 8 story points
  • 3XL – 13 story points
  • 4XL – 20 story points
  • 5XL – 40 story points
  • 6XL – 100 story points
  • ∞ – too large, break up story
  • ? – don’t know, need more info
  • CB – coffee break required

In our team we currently only make use of a subset of these cards (we estimate from XS – XL only) but its nice to know that we can scale up if required to increase the granularity of our estimates (we did this recently when we went from S, M, L only to our current scheme).

Making the cards involved my Macbook, iWork Pages, a colour Printer, A4 paper, a laminator, 60x95mm 250 micron laminating pouches, sharp scissors and a lot of patience.

I plan to follow up this post with a how-to guide to making your own cards which will include a download for the templates used for my cards.

Included below are images of the finished cards. Click on the images for close-ups.

Here are the finished 6 decks of cards (84 cards in all). Each suit has its own colour (blue, purple, orange, yellow, green and red)…

Click to enlarge

All the cards have the same backing…

Click to enlarge

Did you know that t-shirt sizes go all the up to 6XL? Wow…

Click to enlarge

I’m pretty pleased with the finished results and this week we got to try them out. I can’t say they made any difference to the quality of the planning but it was nice to see them in action.

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4 Comments on “My Planning Poker Deck”

  1. These cards look great, I saw them on one of Jeff Patton’s training slides and did a reverse image search on Google.

    Just wondering if the 2XL, 3XL…. up to 6XL gets confusing?

    We do it using 2 passes with just 3 sizes in my company, so 1st pass just S, M, L.

    Then we take all the Small (S) ones and then do a 2nd pass and pick out SS, SM, SL. This gives us matching Fibonacci steps with 9 sizes in total mapping from 1 to 100

    • waynedgrant Says:

      Hey Macdara,

      Going up to 6XL was a bit of a joke (much like having a “size 0”). I was stunned to find that clothing sizes went that large and then couldn’t resist using the sizing metaphor on the cards! XS > 6XL gave me precisely the number of sizes for a full deck after all.

      In practise when my team use these cards we only use 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 (XS > 2XL). That’s all the granularity we need for our current project. Even so we don’t talk about small, medium and large, etc. Instead we refer to something as a ‘two’ or a ‘five’.

      So yes, the 2XL to 6XL value would be confusing if we paid attention to them. However, the modified fibonacci values are what we use.

      Coincidentally the two passes of sizing you do is very similar to how we do release planning. See my latest post for details on that. It works well there so there is no reason that it shouldn’t work for sprint planning.

  2. jan Says:

    super post. Thx

  3. […] Poker Cards – I have several decks of these including the set I made myself. The others were picked up during conferences and training. I find the cards to be a very useful […]

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