A thief robbed six women euchre players of cash and jewellery from their Hamilton motel unit as they slept metres away.
The heist happened on Sunday night when a thief gained access to the women's locked unit as they slumbered inside.
Colleen Freitas and Isla Woodham, of Hokitika, and Helen Dwyer, Chris Koh, Barbara Collett and Peggy McGee, of Greymouth, were representing the Hokitika Chartered Club at a national euchre tournament.
The group arrived back at the motel from the casino at 1.15am on their final night. Their bags were packed for the homeward journey with jewellery, cellphones and watches left close by on bedside cabinets.
The next morning, Ms Dwyer found her two eternity rings, engagement and birthstone rings, cellphone and watch had been swiped from next to where she slept. Ms Koh, sleeping in the same room, lost a new cellphone and watch.
In another room, Ms Woodham found her open handbag in the kitchen.
"I'm sure I didn't leave my handbag in the kitchen," she said. Cash and jewellery were taken from it and another hand bag, including $400 in casino winnings.
The door to the third bedroom was open but nothing had been disturbed inside. The women sleeping in that room were especially pleased because they had left their teeth and hearing aids with their jewellery.
Mrs Freitas, who was woken by something at 2.25am, said she probably scared off the thief before they got a chance to enter the third bedroom.
"Val Smith was to have slept on a roll-away bed in our unit and if the bed had not broken and she had not moved into another unit the thief would have tripped over her sleeping in the lounge."
In a unit opposite the Coast players, a Timaru card player who woke at 3.15am and went outside for a cigarette, saw a man with a black bag crouching suspiciously. She chased him before returning to the unit to phone police.
"We have had some adventures over the years, but nothing like this," Mrs Freitas said.
The Coast women were among 434 card players from 44 clubs taking part in the New Zealand tournament.By Cheryl Riley of the Hokitika Guardian