Planning Poker Sequence: Simplified In 5 Points


Planning Poker, also known as Scrum Poker, is an estimating technique based on consensus. In Agile, it is used to estimate the product backlog.

  1. What Is Planning Poker Sequence?
  2. How Does Planning Poker Work?
  3. Origin of Planning Poker
  4. Benefits
  5. Drawbacks

1. What Is Planning Poker Sequence?

In a software development process, an estimate is a quantitative evaluation of the effort required to execute a software development task. This is generally given in terms of project duration. Planning Poker Sequence intends to pool in the individual estimates of many experts to obtain an approximation of the overall project duration or cost of a project.

2. How Does Planning Poker Work?

  • Step 1: Distributing the cards

At the beginning of the session, each member of the team, known as the estimator, is given a set of planning poker sequence order cards. Each card has a given value. The planning poker sequence list put forward by Mountain Goat Software’s Mike Cohn is 0, 1, 2, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100.

  • Step 2: Reading the story

The product owner or the customer then reads out loud an agile user story or may describe a feature to the team or the estimators. He provides a brief outline of the user story required to be estimated.

  • Step 3: Discussion

The estimators of the team discuss the characteristics to get a comprehensive understanding of all aspects. The estimators are required to discuss and ask questions to clarify the assumptions and risks. A synopsis of the discussion may be recorded by the Moderator of the team. 

  • Step 4: Estimation & Share

Once the discussion is over, each estimator shall privately select one Poker Sequence card according to his or her estimate. Then, all the members shall disclose their cards simultaneously. If the values picked by all the persons are the same, then such value shall be the required estimate.

  • Step 5: Working for Consensus

If the values selected are not the same, then all the members discuss the reason behind their estimates further. The estimators selecting the highest value and the one selecting the lowest value should compulsorily share the basis. After such further discussion, each estimator re-selects a card, and the cards are again disclosed simultaneously. This process is continued until the unanimity of all the estimators is obtained. When each estimator is holding up the same number, the process is completed, and that is the required estimate.

As per poker sequence rules, when there is a tie among two consecutive numbers in the voting, for example, 13 and 20, then the larger number is selected. This is done as it saves time. It also saves the team from the risk of o shortage of duration due to under-estimation of the magnitude of a task.

If the gap between the estimates is sizable, for example, three out of four estimators are holding 8, and the other is holding out 100 then, there may likely be 2 problems- (a) Product Uncertainty else, (b) Technical Uncertainty about the task. In such cases, there are two good solutions- 

 (a) put the story aside and discuss it again in another meeting after proper research has been done to resolve the uncertainty,

 (b) use a range as the estimate.

3. Origin of Planning Poker

The method was named and first defined in 2002 by a software entrepreneur, James Grenning. However, Barry Boehm, in the year 1970, proposed ‘Wideband Delphi,’ a forerunner of Planning Poker Sequence. It was later made popular by Mountain Goat Software’s Mike Cohn in 2005 in the book named ‘Agile Estimating and Planning, where the term was trademarked.


Planning Poker Sequence can be used in any organization for various teams. However, the approach works particularly well for small-scale businesses and small teams. Larger organizations tend to have more substantial teams. The more people take part in a planning poker session, the greater time it will take to arrive at a full consensus on each item.

4. Benefits

  1. The concept of Scrum Poker emphasizes collaboration and team-work. It provides an equal opportunity to each member who would increase their morale.
  2. It provides a platform for the estimators to place their ideas and suggestions in front of the team rather than the conventional method where one person dictated the estimates.
  3. The discussion among the team members about the duration estimates is also a great way to uncover valuable insights about the user story being discussed.

5. Drawbacks

  1. A major drawback of the approach is that it makes ‘convergence to consensus estimate’ an obligation rather than a natural result of the conversation.
  2. Arriving at a consensus in a planning poker sequence may give a false sense of confidence as important points might still be missing to be discussed.
  3. The estimates of a person may be affected by any dominating person of the team if proper attention is not paid. In such a case, consensus would be reached but due to force of will.


After studying the Planning Poker Estimation Technique concept, one might think about whether Planning Poker would actually work. The answer to this is an absolute yes. Teams using Planning Poker Sequence to estimate typically report that the estimates made by them are more accurate than with any other technique they would have used before. The main reason behind this is that it brings together multiple expert opinions from cross-functional teams from all disciplines on a software project.

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