In addition to sharpening your Blackjack skills using Soundcloud and YouTube, you can now quiz yourself on Basic Strategy on the Amazon Echo!

What are Alexa "Skills"

If you're not familiar with the Amazon Echo (sometimes referred to as "Alexa"), it's a voice-activated speaker that acts a virtual assistant, making information easily available by just asking it questions.

In addition to the built-in functionality of handling basic commands (getting the weather, playing songs, or controlling smart appliances), the Echo has access to a bunch of third-party "skills" built by companies and independent developers that provide custom responses to certain phrases and questions.

The JackAce Flashcards Skill

The JackAce Flashcards skill is an extension of my development of audio and video flashcards. With this skill however, you will have the added benefit of being able to answer the question and have the Echo correct you when you are wrong.

To open the skill, just say,

Alexa, open "JackAce Flashcards"

Skill Modes

Review Mode

You can review all the 281 Blackjack decisions in this mode. Alexa will say the player hand and dealer's upcard. After a (very short) pause, she will reveal the correct action.

Test Mode

This is the mode you most likely want to use. Alexa will say the player hand and dealer upcard and will wait for you to answer. Correct responses are one of the following:

  • Hit
  • Stand
  • Double Down
  • Split
  • Surrender if possible, otherwise Hit

The JackAce Flashcard skill in action
Get quizzed on your knowledge of Blackjack Basic Strategy from your Amazon Echo or Echo Show.

What about other Table Conditions?

Right now, the skill only supports Multiple Deck (4+) and Dealer Stands on Soft 17. In the future, we may add more rule variations.

Known Issues

I slapped this skill together using Amazon's "Blueprints" site. It has a bunch of different Alexa skill templates that you can use off-the-shelf without any programming or deploying of services. Choose a template, fill out a form, and BAM - You've created a skill!

Amazon Blueprints for Alexa
There dozens of Alexa skill templates to choose from.

But the downside to this simplicity is that the templates are extremely rigid. You can't supply a list of acceptable answers (e.g. "Double" in addition to "Double Down"), and there is a lot of weirdness when you get an answer wrong or ask Alexa to repeat herself.

I've also "dumbed down" some of the responses in order to keep the responses simple. For situations where the correct response might be "Double Down if possible, otherwise Hit", I've decided to just accept the response "Double Down". And for the Soft 18 totals, I also just accept "Double Down" instead of looking for "Double Down if possible, otherwise Stand".

In the future, I may create a fully developed Alexa Skill, but until then please enjoy this first version of the JackAce Flashcards skill!

Have some suggestions? Comment below!