2002: Robert Varkonyi becomes the first amateur player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event and the top prize of $1 million. Online poker sites send a lot of people to the event through their satellite tournaments, but none of them place high enough for notice to be taken.
2003: Chris Moneymaker enters a $40 satellite on Poker Stars, which he is able to parlay into an appearance at the World Series of Poker Main Event. He goes on to win that event and the top prize of $2.5 million, while people all over the world start to think that if he could do it, then they could do it too.
2004: Another online amateur named Greg Raymer wins the WSOP Main Event and the top prize this year of $5 million, once again igniting a boom on top of the boom started by Chris Moneymaker the year before.
2005: Joe Hachem wins the $7.5 million prize (another amateur).
2006: Jamie Gold wins the $12 million top prize, besting a mammoth field of over 8,000 participants in the WSOP Main Event. Legislation is passed in the US to ban online gambling and the poker boom screeches to a halt.
2007: The legislation banning online gambling in the US is lifted and players from 39 out of 50 states can once again play at online poker sites. While the poker boom has probably peaked as long as 11 states (including high populated states like New York and Illinois as well as gambling states like Nevada) remain illegal, one can expect this high pace of people to be sustained for some years to come.
This brings us to where we are today. There are over 200 different online poker websites, most of which will accept players from at least 39 of the 50 states in the US. Poker is flying high like it was in the period of time from 2003 to 2005 and ultimately if you want a specific type of poker game, chances are that it is going to be readily available from at least one of those websites. You have choices in online poker today that you never would have from normal poker and it is this freedom of choice more than many other things that continues to drive the popularity of online poker.
The freedom to choose your limit, choose your favorite game, choose your website and choose when you want to play is something that you would never get at most land-based casinos because of the low amount of games available and the waiting lists for those games and it is this freedom of choice that ensures that online poker will continue to be popular for awhile to come; especially if some of those 11 states begin to reverse their bans on online gambling!