Mastering Planning Poker - 10 Pitfalls to Avoid for Agile Success

Enhance your agile team's estimation accuracy by steering clear of these 10 common mistakes in Planning Poker. Discover solutions to boost collaboration and efficiency in your sprint planning sessions.

Gergely Bihary

Last updated: Jun 1, 2024
An ace poker card

Planning poker is an excellent tool for agile teams to estimate project effort collaboratively. However, several common mistakes can hinder its effectiveness. Here’s a comprehensive guide to avoiding these pitfalls:

1. Lack of Preparation

Preparation is crucial for a successful planning poker session. Ensure that the user stories are well-defined and the acceptance criteria are clear. Without this, team members might have different understandings of the story, leading to inaccurate estimates.


  • Hold grooming sessions beforehand.
  • Ensure stories are broken down to manageable sizes.
  • Clarify any ambiguities in the user stories and acceptance criteria.

2. Dominance of Senior Team Members

In some teams, senior members or more vocal individuals may dominate the discussion, influencing the estimates of others. Encourage all team members to share their views independently before discussing the estimates to avoid this bias.


  • Use anonymous voting tools to ensure independent input.
  • Facilitate discussions in a way that encourages quieter team members to voice their opinions.
  • Rotate facilitators to prevent dominance by a single individual.

3. Underestimating Story Complexity

Teams sometimes overlook the complexity of a user story, leading to underestimation. Discuss potential challenges and dependencies thoroughly before voting to get a more accurate estimate.


  • Encourage detailed discussions on possible technical challenges and dependencies.
  • Use historical data to inform complexity estimations.
  • Break down complex stories into smaller, more manageable tasks.

4. Skipping Discussion on Disparities

When there’s a significant difference in estimates, it’s essential to discuss the reasons behind the disparity. This discussion often reveals overlooked details and leads to a more accurate consensus.


  • Always discuss outliers and the reasoning behind high and low estimates.
  • Use these discussions as learning opportunities for the team.
  • Document insights gained during these discussions for future reference.

5. Ignoring Team Capacity

Even if the estimates are accurate, not considering the team’s capacity can derail a sprint. Balance the estimated workload with the team’s available capacity to avoid overcommitment.


  • Regularly update and track team capacity.
  • Adjust the sprint backlog based on team availability.
  • Consider factors like holidays, vacations, and other commitments.

6. Using planning poker for Every Story

While planning poker is valuable, it’s not necessary for every user story, especially small or well-understood tasks. Reserve it for complex or high-uncertainty stories to keep sessions efficient.


  • Categorize stories based on complexity and uncertainty.
  • Use planning poker selectively for high-impact stories.
  • Develop a streamlined estimation process for simpler tasks.

7. Infrequent Sessions

Holding planning poker sessions too infrequently can lead to rushed estimations or forgotten context. Regular, scheduled sessions help maintain consistency and accuracy in estimates.


  • Schedule regular planning poker sessions, ideally at the beginning of each sprint.
  • Ensure that these sessions are prioritized and attended by all relevant team members.
  • Use these sessions to maintain a backlog of estimated stories.

8. Over-Reliance on Numbers

Treat planning poker estimates as guidelines rather than exact figures. Agile projects are inherently flexible, and estimates should be revisited and revised as more information becomes available.


  • Use estimates to guide planning, not to set fixed deadlines.
  • Regularly revisit and adjust estimates based on actual progress.
  • Embrace the iterative nature of agile development.

9. Neglecting Retrospectives

Post-sprint retrospectives should include a review of estimation accuracy. Analyzing discrepancies between estimates and actual effort helps improve future planning poker sessions.


  • Incorporate estimation reviews into sprint retrospectives.
  • Identify patterns and common causes of estimation inaccuracies.
  • Use findings to refine the estimation process and training.

10. Not Adapting the Process

Every team is different, and so is every project. Be open to tweaking the planning poker process to better fit your team’s needs and dynamics.


  • Regularly solicit feedback from the team on the planning poker process.
  • Experiment with different approaches and tools to find what works best.
  • Stay informed about best practices and adapt as needed.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of your planning poker sessions, leading to more predictable and manageable sprints.

Ready to avoid these pitfalls? Start refining your sessions today with and watch your team’s estimation accuracy soar!