LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Online poker players beware.
A new computer virus all but assures that if you play, you might pay.
The virus makes it possible for someone at your table to see your hand. And they don't have to stand behind you to do so.
KCAL9's Peter Daut spoke with a top professional poker player to find out how it all goes down.
As the world's third-ranked female poker player, Maria Ho thrives on competition.
"Poker is very much you or them. There's one person at the end of the tournament, and there's only one winner," says Ho.
Imagine her outrage after learning about an online poker scam that lets hackers cheat their way to winning -- affecting several hundred players on sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, according to a Southern California security company.
"It's a little bit difficult to comprehend the fact someone has a big advantage over me when I'm just trying to play my game," Ho says.
Security experts say the Trojan virus is installed onto computers after downloading poker-related programs, including player databases and calculators.
The spyware takes screenshots of the infected players' cards sending them to hackers who then join online tables where victims are playing to up the stakes and steal their money.
Daut spoke with poker players who quit playing online when they suspected something was wrong.
"I played a lot of online, and I cashed out once in a span of two years. Once! So obviously there's something going on," said Jack Maleeh.
Despite federal and state bans on online poker, an estimated 1 million Californians spend $300 million annually to play the game, typically on websites based outside the country.
Ho worries professional players may also be victims of the virus.
"Hopefully this is going to be rectified somehow so that we can continue doing what we love for a living and hopefully poker will be around for a very long time," Ho said.
Concerned players should make sure their anti-virus software is up to date and remove any malicious-looking files.
Daut also said players can also report suspicious behavior to the targeted sites.
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