NOTE: I'm sharing my experiences but you should in no way take them as professional advice; I am simply money savvy and always suggest you do your own research and determine how much risk you can handle.
I picked Virtual Brokers as my broker of choice because they charge only 1 cent per share to buy or sell. There is a minimum of $1,000 required to open the account, and no hidden fees! :) I like it, and their web and smartphone apps work for my needs.
As for what to trade, I decided to go for ETF's. They are a mix of stocks with a common theme or sector (tech, oil, gold etc.), but unlike mutual funds they are not actively managed (so you don't pay high fees), and also unlike mutual funds they trade just like regular stocks do on the stock market! :)
As for my favorite ETF's, I'm currently looking at commodities. I know, I know, commodities such as Crude Oil are extremely volatile and risky. The way I see it though, volatility is awesome if you're looking to get in and get out within a few days (or same day). My favorite ETF's are HOU:TO and HOD:TO. They are both ETF's by a company called Horizons, which by the way has an array of excellent ones to trade. Finally, I stick with Toronto Stock Exchange because it keeps things simple for me and I don't need to worry about the exchange rate, which is currently very unfavorable for many of us Canadians :(
How well did I do? I lost some money initially, mostly due to the beginner mistake by not setting stops and because of letting unreasonable fear get the best of me. I follow the downtrend plaguing crude oil, as well as short sell on the temporary up trends as soon as they show signs of turning around. Now that I'm getting a hang of it, I made my money back and a bit extra on top of that. If I can keep learning and doing well enough, I think that my self-managed account might perform better this year better than a mutual fund or a GIC.
Oh and gentlemen, remember- stock market is not gambling and it's not just for the rich. I dislike gambling and I'm not rich. Still, I believe there's a good reason why the rich put their extra money on the stock market, while the poor spend large sums on the lottery. The rich know that growth takes time and that you need to pick the ways to make it happen that have the best available odds. Give it some thought :)