Blackjack is one of the most popular card games. It is easy to learn, exciting to watch and the play is quick. Best of all, it has perhaps the best odds of winning. The rules of Blackjack are fairly simple and straightforward. Here is what is you need to know to get started playing.

Bet and the Deal. In the beginning of each hand each player will place his or her bet. After bets are placed each player, including the dealer, is dealt two cards. One of the dealer's cards will be face down, so you won't know what it is. Numbered cards are worth their face value, so a 7 of hearts is worth 7. Face cards have a value of 10 aces are worth 1 or 11, you decide.

Goal. There is a lot of material out there that incorrectly states the goal of Blackjack is to get a value as close as possible to 21. The real goal of Blackjack is to get a higher value than the dealer. The dealer is always the last to act, so your job is to think about what the dealer has and act accordingly. The rules state that you can go as high as 21 in your hand, but if you get 22 or higher, you have what is called "busted" and you automatically lose.

Play. So when it is your turn, you have some decisions to make. If you like the value of your two cards, you should "stand". This means your turn is over and you are going to play with the cards you have. If you don't like the value you have, you can "hit". When you hit, the dealer will give you another card. You can keep hitting until you have a value you like. Just be careful, because if the value of yourhand is more than 21, you automatically lose.

Winner. Once a player stands, the dealer will generally hit until his or her hand is 17 or higher (depending on the blackjack rules at that casino). If you are dealt 21 (ace and a 10 or a face card) on the first two cardsyou have "blackjack" and you automatically win the hand. Blackjack pays 1.5x the bet, so if you bet $10, you would be paid $15 (plus your initial bet of $10). All other bets are paid even money, so a $10 bet would win $10 (plus your initial bet of $10).

After you have these basic rules of Blackjack down, there are a couple of additional actions you should know about:

Double-Down: After your initial two cards are dealt, you have the option to double your bet. If you decide to do this, you will recieve one additional card-that's it. Many people like to double-down when they have an 11, hoping they will get a face card dealt them giving them a hand of 21.

Splitting: If you are dealt two of the same card, you can opt to split them into two hands. Splitting requires you put up another bet equal to your initial bet, since each hand must be equal to the initial bet. After the split, each hand is played individually.

When used at the right time, doubling-down and splitting can be great tools to enhance your chances of winning, but they should only be used under specific circumstances.

Other Rules of Blackjack you should know about

Insurance: If the dealer's upcard is an ace, players are given the option of betting whether the dealer has Blackjack before the dealer checks the bottom card(if the dealer has 21, the dealer automatically wins). The bet, called "insurance", is half the inital bet on the table and it pays 2 to 1. If the dealer has Blackjack, you lose your initial bet, but you win the insurance bet--effectively you come away from the hand even, hence the name. If the dealer doesn't have blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and continue playing the hand. While you might protect yourself for a hand or two, statistically speaking, paying for insurance is a bad bet and you will lose more money over time.

Surrendering: Surrendering isn't always allowed at casino tables and typically isn't publically noted, so it is best to ask the dealer if surrendering is an opton when you sit down at a table. After the two card, you can surrender your hand and get half of your bet back. You might surrender if you don't like thecards you were dealt and/or if the dealer is showing an unfavorable card.