Celebrity charity poker night featuring Joe Hachem, Lebanese Australian professional poker player famous for winning the main event of the 2005 WSOP, was disrupted by a case of their limousine being stolen in the port city of Geelong, Australia.
Aside from Hachem and his brother Tony, the limousine was lent to transport them with other known celebrities, namely former Aussie football star Brendan Fevola and his wife.
The group was supposed to attend a charity poker night event on the eve of Wednesday, May 11, at the Sphinx Hotel, Geelong, Australia. The purpose of the charity event was to raise up to $50,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Prior to the event, the celebs were entertained by George Ramia at Fishermen's Pier restaurant. (Both the Sphinx Hotel and Fishermen's Pier are owned by the Ramia family in Geelong.) After they finished their dinner and headed out, all were surprised, including the limo driver, when they realized that the super stretch Chrysler was missing.
Authorities say that the white stretch limo worth $200k was stolen from outside the seafood restaurant at about 6:30pm when the driver left the car "unattended for a short time".
The group had to find another vehicle in order to make it back to the Sphinx Hotel for their sparkling All in for Charity tournament, hosted by Warne and Hachem.
Ramia said that the Geelong car hire company Murrells had donated two limousines for the charity event, "The poor guy just has come into the restaurant to pick us up, gone out there and it's gone. What can you say about that?"
Owner Danny Murrell said the driver parked very near the restaurant because the rain was pouring down, and shortly walked away from the limo to pick up the guests, "Being such a large vehicle you can't pull up directly out the front. He's only gone a few meters away from the vehicle to signal he was there, and he's turned around and it was gone."
The incident left the driver devastated, says Murrell, "He's completely shaken by what's happened".
The vehicles were expected to show up in a red carpet event at the Sphinx Hotel later that evening.
The Murrell Group, a family-oriented business in Geelong established five decades ago, then turned to social media to search for the stolen limo.
Murrell said that the community also helped police locate the stolen car, "The help and the assistance we had was absolutely overwhelming."
Police were able to find the limo at about 9pm that same night in Lara, with a busted up front and bogged in mud. No arrests have been made. Murrell expressed his thanks and also said, "Our vehicle has been found in Lara, a bit battered and bruised but still alive."
It was also a lively night for Warne who said photographers were waiting for him at socialite Brynne Edelsten's home when she invited him to her place for a nightcap.
In his Twitter feed, Hachem described the incident as "hilarious" and that it was "such a random thing to happen".
As for the charity poker tournament, Hachem emphasized that no players won money that night, but were running for prizes, and all proceeds went to the cause. Groups paid up to $2500 to sit at their tables. Base entry was $100 a head.
Those who showed up at the charity event include former cricketer Shane Warne, American TV personality and actress Brynne Edelsten, retired super heavyweight kickboxer and mixed martial artist, Geelong Football Club captain Joel Selwood, and former Australian rules footballers Billy Brownless, Brendan Fevola (and his wife Alex), and Robert DiPierdomenico.
Hachem said, "We're hoping to raise for the foundation anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000. All in for charity is not about gambling, it's about having fun."