Most cities have literally countless illegal gambling dens, just like back in the days of the Wild West.
Although most people only likely walk away with beer money for the week, the people hosting underground card games make, in some cases, millions from the "rake", or fee, which is usually a percentage of the winnings.
When you factor all these sorts of activities occur in everything from ethnic social clubs to after hours private clubs, to uncle Charlie's basement, it all adds up to a huge sector of what is the underground economy.
Typically, unless there is a complaint, or some other sort of illicit activity to draw the attention of law enforcement, nobody really bothers them. In most cases, there are strict rules about drugs being consumed or sold on the premises.
Most States in the US and provinces in Canada have some sort of regulatory body - a "gaming commission". So, say you like in Utah, only poker games specifically sanctioned by the Utah Gaming Commission are legal. Along with Utah, Missouri, Indiana, New Jersey and New York have punitive and archaic gambling laws. Canada, with its typically paternalistic nanny-state, it gets much worse; nearly all forms of gambling not sanctioned by government are illegal.
In Ontario, Canada, the "Ontario Lottery Corporation" is an entity set up to look like a government body, when in reality it is actually a corporate monopoly, protected by government.
However the reality in Canada's biggest city is that there is a growth in the underground economy
in illegal gambling dens.
In states where home card games are legal, its only really legal for the players alone to make money. Anytime there is a fee, percentage or rake involved, where the person hosting the game makes money, its likely illegal.
Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado and even Texas have laws explicitly stating that no person can make money for operating a game, with the exception of players. This also applies to liquor sales, which are usually governed by other statutes.
There are other states where home gambling is legal to some extent, calling it "social gambling". Some states such as Alaska, Alabama and Louisiana are some examples where that home poker game is legal. There is a complete list here of states where home poker games are legal.
How People Make Cash from Home Card Games
Like anything else, there is a big of a learning curve. First off, one has to learn not just how to play poker, and more importantly, how to run a game.
There is the issue of learning the finer points and the dexterity of how to deal cards properly. One has to learn how to collect a rake from the pot.
A good way to "cut your teeth" is to simply talk to people you know who play poker, and/or find some underground clubs near you and play around a while until you are more experienced and also gain some trust among others.
If you "get in" with some of the regulars, or owners, you can discretely being to offer to deal for them if they need someone (that would be gold, as it could net you maybe a couple of hundred bucks a night - cash in your pocket!).
Youtube and similar sites have no shortage of tutorials on subjects like, how to deal, etc. As well as there is no shortage of good poker tutorials online.
The other, equally prudent strategy is for one to get their own club up and running. The space is cheap, as one can use their home or a part of it, or their business.
Dealers are relatively inexpensive (in case you never got too proficient at learning how to deal!), as they just collect tips or a percentage as any service sector employee would.
How to Make Money off of Rake Per Hand
On average, a rake could make you from a few hundred to a couple of grand a night. A typical plan would be to offer $1/2 no limit, with the rake taking 10% of the pot up to $5-$7 (most private/ethnic clubs and similar gambling dens can charge up to $10 or more)
So, for example, say if you deal 20 hands an hour, collecting an average of $5/hand, running 3 tables, creating a rake of $300/hr, 6 hours gives you $1800.
Some things to keep in mind are: while prosecution comes with a low risk, you cannot merely just assume that your home poker game is legal in your jurisdiction, and even if it is legal, you still face the problem of being able to collect your money if you win and are not paid - or if people owe you for whatever reason (the latter is where the real problems begin: when people try to collect gambling debts. You can bet the long arm of the law is not far behind).
*Disclaimer: working and intentionally not declaring income is, in most cases, a federal offense. This website in no way endorses tax evasion. The preceding information is for information and entertainment purposes only.