German poker tournament robbers still on the run

BERLIN — German police were hunting today for four bandits who stormed a poker tournament in Berlin and made off with euro240,000 ($328,000) in jackpot money in a brazen daylight heist.

The masked men armed with guns and machetes rushed midday Saturday into the poker tournament with about 1,000 registered players in central Potsdamer Platz at the Berlin Grand Hyatt hotel, stunning the participants and the audience.

Footage on German television showed a hotel security guard battling with one of the robbers, then wrestling a second one to the floor. The captive escaped after his accomplice returned from another room wielding a large metal post and chased the guard away.

Today, police were analyzing voluminous video footage of the crime, dusting for fingerprints, talking to witnesses and going over details, said Berlin police spokesman Burkhardt Opitz.

Surveillance footage from outside the building caught one of the robbers without his mask on, but only from behind.

Opitz said police were hoping to put together details and pictures for a public search. He said none of the crime site evidence collected thus far has provided strong leads.

Investigators were checking whether an insider might have tipped the robbers off on when to try to snatch cash from the euro1 million jackpot, Opitz said.

“Even players at the tournament knew when the cashier’s area was open as they had to pay their fees in cash,” he said.

At least two of the four man were armed, one with a machete and one with a revolver, Opitz said.

Rainer Wendt, leader of a major German police union, told n-tv that the weapons used by the robbers, the fact that the heist was pulled off in front of multiple cameras, and other factors pointed to the thieves being amateurs who should be easily caught.

“It was quite apparent that these were not professionals,” he said, calling the robbery “a new dimension of stupidity.”

Seven people were slightly injured during the robbery when players jumped underneath tables and tried to get away, but nobody was seriously hurt, Opitz said.

The European Poker Tour tournament ended Sunday night with U.S. player Kevin MacPhee, 29, taking the euro1 million pot. He also won a seat to the EPT finals in Monte Carlo in April.

The ETP said in a statement that it planned to increase security at future events in the wake of the robbery.

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