This guide is aimed virtually exclusively at the beginner poker player, although there may be useful advice for the experienced player as well. See which one of these categories fit you:
Why is poker suddenly so immensely popular? Is it the televised events? Is it Chris Moneymaker? Is it a natural cycle in games?
I think those things help, but I think it's primarily because poker is a wildly exciting and fun game. Unfortunately, however, this great game has simply been unpractical to play for many of the people who would otherwise enjoy it. Many countries - and many states in America - don't have casinos or poker rooms. At least not legal ones. Getting 6-10 people together for a somewhat meaningful period of time to constitute a session can be difficult. Getting all of these people to agree on limits, type of game, etc, complicates things even further. To add insult to injury, many people have a moral objection to winning money from their friends, which means that they're miserable no matter how the evening turns out: They lose even when they win! But then came the internet, and all of these problems just melted away with the online poker sites. No longer do people have to schedule poker games three weeks from now. They can play whatever limits they feel like - and whatever game they feel like - any time of the day. And they play against anonymous people who they have no emotional attachment to, and can therefore play the game to win without having to feel guilty over taking their best friend's money. I think this is the biggest reason online poker is so successful: The game has always been great, but with online poker rooms the problems associated with the stuff AROUND the game have been resolved.
Because of this, I hold a more optimistic stance than many other players when it comes to the future of online poker: I think online poker is here to stay at - at least - the size it is today and probably a lot bigger still. We're only seeing the beginning.
In a word: Yes. Can money really be won by you? Although I don't know you at all, the fact that you've made the effort of finding this guide alone makes me say, with some confidence, "yes." What may be up for debate is how much money there is for you to win, or rather at which limits you will be able to profitably play. But proficiency to beat the microlimits of poker is not difficult to achieve. Although not everyone can make their living as a professional, playing poker online doesn't have to be a losing proposition if you're willing to work on your game.
When people talk about these things, they often talk about "win-rate", and then they define it as the average number of BB (big bets) per 100 hands played, and often represent it like so: "1.5BB/100 at 2/4 over 15k hands", meaning that this person has won on average 1.5 BB per 100 hands, at $2/$4 limit poker, and the average is calculated over 15,000 hands. 1.5BB at $2/$4 is $6 (1.5*4), meaning that another way to put this is that this person has won $6*150 = $900. Is this value meaningful, though?
There are three schools here. Some feel that this value - the win-rate - is what matters, that it says something about how good a poker player is, and the argument has merit. Clearly the net profit doesn't say much about how "good" a player is, because it doesn't include the information on how many hands it took to achieve it. For instance, if I tell you I've won $10 000 in poker, does that mean I'm a good player? No, not necessarily. Maybe I sat down at a $300/$600 game and played one hand and got lucky. A monkey could pull that off. What if that $10,000 was the result of playing 125,000 hands at $1/$2? A fairly significant win over the scope of so many hands seems to indicate that it's quite a bit more than just luck.
The second school feels that win-rates mean nothing, it's how you've played that matters. The outcome is unimportant. This philosophy has its merits as well, specifically because it teaches people to stay away from results-oriented approaches to analyzing hands. They don't care what the opponent showed you, they care only about what you thought he would have, and how you acted accordingly. This way of looking analytically at the game is the most powerful way of improving your game.
The third school is the polar opposite of the second: Here, only the results matter, and they don't care about average win-rate either. Poker is about winning money - how much have you won? The fact that you've won steadily - and impressively - for 125,000 hands is great and all, but what do you have to show for it? Poker success is measured in lifetime earnings. This philosophy has its merits as well, as it looks at a value that is not only undisputable (a statistical average is nothing if not disputable) but represents an amount that is meaningful to everyone; everyone knows how much you can buy for $10,000, not everyone feels a connection with 1.5/100.
The reason I bring up these different schools of thought when it comes to how to look at poker achievements is to explain that while I can answer the question "can money be won," I cannot give a generic answer to the question "how much." And if you're wondering whether or not online poker is beatable, the answer is a clear YES. Take comfort in this right now, focus on learning a winning way to play the game, and then you will eventually realize where your profits lie and how much they are and will be. The place where it all starts is your bankroll - read on, using the menu on the left.