Poker began to pick up notoriety (and mainstream acceptance) in America during the time period between 2003 and 2006 commonly referred to as the “poker boom“. It was during this time when the Travel Channel, a nationally recognized cable television network, debuted the inaugural season of the 2003 World Series of Poker, while ESPN, another household name network reran highlights from the tournament. The Travel Channel’s coverage of the WSOP tournament would later go on to become it’s highest rated show in the network’s history.

Poker as an entertainment activity, is the perfect balance of luck and skill. Unlike other popular gambling games like slots and roulette, which carry a stigma, poker is both respectable and arguably considered a sport in the United States.

The idea that “anybody” with the right strategy and a little luck of the draw can win massive payouts with such a small amount of starting money quickly caught on like wildfire, and resulted in the rise of a new billion dollar industry. It wasn’t long after the televised WSOP that everyday people began to learn the ropes of the game and put both their skill and luck to the test on easy to use free poker sites.

Prior to the rise of online poker, people who wanted to participate in a game were heavily constrained to going to a casino, which more often than not came as an inconvenience and included many obstacles. Today, thanks to the growth of the Internet, players are able to partake in online poker from the comfort of their home and on their own time.

The rise of online poker came with the many advantages offered to new players that being physically present in brick-and-mortar casinos can’t offer. On top of 24/7 accessibility allowing you to play on your own schedule, online poker allows you to utilize more hands per hour, gain access to loyalty programs, and no tipping the dealer required. A common practice for many online poker players who begin to get their feel for what strategy works best for them is utilizing multiple tables at once to increase their edge.

What people find most fascinating about poker, specifically the Texas No Limit Hold’em variation of the game, is how an average Joe, like 27-year-old accountant Chris Moneymaker, could not only win a $2.5 million dollar grand prize with such a small buy-in, but also rise to become the pinnacle of poker in such a short period of time. What keeps the entertainment aspect of the game so exciting, however, is how Hold’em is played. This variation of the game is often explosive and far more confrontational when compared to more traditional variations of the game such as 5-card draw or 7-card stud.

Today, poker is broadcasted on ESPN, Fox Sports Network, and numerous other cable networks less for its “rags-to-riches” reputation, and more for its competitive nature and creativity required to play. With the rise of poker bringing in an influx of new players and blossoming into a social phenomenon for so many, players from all levels of the social mobility ladder are eager to put their skill and luck to test for the chance at their own Cinderella story.