Poker, Travelling and Hacking: Pros Weigh In on Barcelona Incident


Finnish poker pro Jens Kyllönen's disturbing story of hotel room break-ins and suspected hacking at EPT Barcelona has been the talk of the poker world for the past few days

It's not something we like to be reminded of in poker but there's always a need to be vigilant with our online security, at home or on the road.

PokerListings Italy's Giovanni Angioni contacted a few poker pros familiar with the risks of travelling and playing poker for their thoughts on the situation.

PokerStars Team Online Pro Dale Philip, EPT San Remo champ Constant Rijkenberg and Italian pro Luca Moschitta weighed in.

PokerListings: Did you follow the story of compromised laptops at EPT Barcelona?

Dale Philip: Yes I've read the extremely well written post by Jens Kyllönen on TwoPlusTwo and followed the thread a bit. Well done to him for making such a clear and informative detail of events.

Constant Rijkenberg: Yes, I followed on 2+2.

Luca Moschitta: I just finished reading Jens post on 2+2 and considering how long it was and the time it took him to write it – I doubt he wrote it without having a valid point. Something happened for sure there.

Jens Kyllonen
Jens: Justifiably rattled by whole experience.

PokerListings: How scary is the idea of someone getting into your room and messing with your computer for a poker player?

D. Philip: It was very scary to read, as a hotel room is supposed to be your 'home away from home'. To think that someone has been in there screwing with the computer that you play poker on, especially at the stakes he plays, must feel absolutely gut-wrenching.

C. Rijkenberg: Scares me a lot! Have lost money in weird ways to regs on small sites. 

L. Moschitta: It is very scary. Even before fearing that something will happen to my laptop, I would be afraid for myself. How can it be that someone can break into your hotel room so easily? What if instead of a hacker you would find in your room someone with a gun?

Another very serious issue is that the hotel did not provide video recordings of the corridor and the elevator. We are talking about a €400/night hotel. Besides everything, should the story be confirmed in the coming days, I think the hotel holds quite some responsibilities.

PokerListings: Let’s imagine this has not happened yet. Let’s say you get back to your hotel room and, not finding your laptop, you logically go to the lobby to ask for an explanation. A few minutes later, once back in your room, you find your laptop magically there where it was supposed to be. What would you do then: think you might have simply missed it and restart playing as usual or…?

D. Philip: I don't stay in hotels all that often when I travel. I prefer to rent an apartment short term from someone local, using a site such as Airbnb.

For me it feels more quiet, homely, way more space, I don't have a stranger (maid) coming in daily touching my personal items, it's much better value and I get a dedicated internet connection that I don't have to share with anyone.

Dale Philip Photo: PokerStars blog.

I can see why people want to stay in the hotel if they are travelling for a poker tournament though. They can basically roll out of bed and be straight into the poker room. And all the perks of a nice hotel like 24 hour room service, swimming pool, and all that. And if you play sats, it's usually included in the package you win.

Something I've being doing since forever is to store my laptop and camera in my huge suitcase and then lock the suitcase with a padlock. If someone such as a maid were to try and steal my laptop and it was left on a table, they could easily smuggle it out by just wrapping a towel around it or something.

By storing it in my suitcase nobody knows there is even a laptop in there and even if they did they can't get into my suitcase or smuggle it out of the room very easily.

If I was in Jens' spot, like you described there's no way I'd "think I may have missed seeing the laptop" the first time I entered the room. A laptop isn't something small enough that you don't notice if it's sitting on the desk in your room. I wouldn't even question my memory.

C. Rijkenberg: I'd check the room properly. If it's not there and it reappears I would have it checked before anything.

L. Moschitta: First, I would assume I might simply have missed it – mistakes happen after all. I usually leave my laptop on the bed, so the cleaners do need to move it somewhere else when they come.

The thing is that here we are talking about something that happened to some people, not only to one player. And we are talking about a laptop that could be accessed even without a password. A problem is also that for couple of people who noticed that, there can be 10, 20 more who did not. 

PokerListings: How about after the story broke out: would you still do the same?

D. Philip: It's difficult to say what I'd do in that situation, because there would be some degree of panic/tilt/not thinking straight.

I would probably have spoken to the staff like he did but at some point later after finding them to be not very cooperative I'd like to think I'd be going to the police, with the laptop in a plastic bag to preserve finger prints, and ready to explain to them everything in detail and why a major crime may well have been committed despite the stolen goods reappearing.

If they didn't take me seriously I'd go to my country's Embassy and ask them to help.

Constant Rijkenberg
Rijkenberg: Straight to social media.

C. Rijkenberg: I would take to social media to make sure other players would know what is happening

L. Moschitta: Jens plays much higher limits than me, so he is much more “at risk” than I am. Yet, from today on I will try to pay much more attention. I will go for a good antivirus software and I will be more careful when installing anything.

PokerListings: Have you ever directly experienced any sort of online identity theft?

D. Philip: I've never been a victim to such things, but I guess that most criminals would target players who are playing higher stakes than me. Especially those who mainly play heads-up or short-handed cash games. It's the same amount of effort for a much higher reward.

I'm still pretty paranoid though. No poker player is ever getting the chance to be alone with my computer if I don't fully trust them.

C. Rijkenberg: I have not luckily! Even if there have been multiple tries though.

L. Moschitta: Never. I had my first PC when I was 10 and I learned how to use it well before I learned how to play poker so I tend to avoid most of the threats online (phishing, Trojans, strange .exe files, etc.).

Once my credit card was cloned – but that can happen. When you go to a restaurant, pay with your card and the waiter leaves with it…well, he can perfectly not the numbers in it and use it for a little online shopping.

Moschitta: Tough passwords are key.

PokerListings: How do you make sure your computer is safe? Tons of super hard passwords, any specific software, fingers crossed…?

D. Philip: If nobody has physical access to your computer there's still a chance that your machine could be compromised remotely if you are careless or not very smart with computers.

Having tough passwords on all your accounts plus RSA tokens, keeping your OS updated with security updates and not clicking suspicious links in emails, twitter, forum PMs etc is just basic common sense.

C. Rijkenberg: I'm on Mac: No one can use it and I have loads of security software in it.

L. Moschitta: I tend to be very careful. I use different and complicated passwords for all my most important accounts (poker, home banking, email) and for some of those I also have special tokens or random sms passwords sent via SMS.

This way, should someone find the password to one account – at least this one would not give access to any other one. Then I try not to store sensitive info in my email box, I have a password at my computer’s start and I don’t let anyone to use it.

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