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Poker News | World Poker News

Attempted Armed Robbery at EPT Berlin

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The day started out as it should. It was Day 4 of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour’s Berlin stop. The ballroom at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Berlin was buzzing with excitement as the 20 or so players remaining in the €5,000 buy-in Main Event vied for their spots at the coveted final table. What had become the biggest poker tournament ever held in Germany was looking to be the pride of the EPT as the fourth day played out. And in other parts of the room, a €1,000 buy-in NLHE tournament and a ladies-only tournament played out.

That was until noises came from the lobby. And people started running through the tournament room. Tables from the side events near the doors were overturned as people ran frantically to escape the room and others simply hid behind the upturned tables. Most did not know what they were running from or why it was so urgent, but when German voices yelled that there was danger, they ran.

What happened was finally confirmed by video footage courtesy of a member of the media who saw the ruckus in the front lobby and kept the camera running. And people started giving their accounts to the staff, media, and police. A group of armed men wearing ski masks stormed the hotel lobby with weapons and threatened the staff and demanded money. They escaped with some money and left people terrified, some only with slight injuries during the frantic escape process.

Video footage saw a hotel security guard, later found to be named Roman, capture one of the gunmen and hold him in a headlock on the floor. However, footage also shows another of the robbers approach with a long weapon, possibly a machete or pipe, and threaten Roman, at which point he released the other gunmen just prior to their escape.

Many details remain unconfirmed. The police refused to speculate or give details because of the ongoing investigation. That left eyewitness accounts.

Some witnesses claimed there were machine guns and hand grenades, but the majority of witnesses noted only machetes and handguns. Initial reports claimed six men stormed the hotel, while others say there were only three or four. Some reports, like that of United States-based MSNBC News, stated that over $1 million was stolen, and it was a fact that the jackpot for the tournament could have held as much as $1.36 million as the first prize for the EPT event was €1 million. However, others note that the only cash on hand was that from the buy-in of the high roller tournament earlier in the day, and the amount from those buy-ins has not been reported. The police only stated that the robbers stole a “jackpot,” and it is unclear to what pot of money they referred.

There was even a report that at least one witness recognized the clothing of more than one robber and suggested that those were the same clothes worn by poker players who had busted from one of the poker tournaments. However, this, along with other eyewitness accounts, have not been corroborated or verified by police.

It may be days before more facts are released in the case.

What happened in the Grand Hyatt soon after was by way of calmer heads prevailing. The EPT released a statement in English and German almost immediately, courtesy of spokesperson Kirsty Thompson:

“An armed robbery by six men took place today at EPT Berlin. Nobody was seriously injured. We hope to re-start all events at 4pm local time. A police investigation is under way. If you have video footage or photographs that could help the police, please contact the EPT organizers as soon as possible.”

Approximately an hour later, the PokerStars blog reporters noted that Thompson and tournament director Thomas Kremser took to the microphones of the tournament room to apologize to the players for the incident and note that players in the side event and ladies tournament were allowed to request a refund of their money should they not wish to continue play. A short time later, the €1,000 side event was officially and completely cancelled, giving all players refunds, though no additional word was given about the ladies tournament.

At 6pm local time, several hours after the attempted robbery, play began again, though the EPT Live broadcast was halted for the evening. Chips at the featured television table were “unaffected,” though the other two tables had chips scattered. Kremser worked with the tournament players to reorganize the chip stacks, and when several players - namely Alfonso Amendola and Ketul Nathwani - claimed that there were chips missing, Kremser made the decision, with the agreement of all players involved at the tables, to introduce new chips into play to make up the difference.

Play proceeded through the evening hours until the final table was set with eight players.

More information is expected from tournament organizers and police in the coming days as the investigation progresses.

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