Canadian Buddhist and poker-player Scott Wellenbach will donate more than $600,000 to charity following his third-prize poker finish at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament in the Bahamas, reports the BBC.
Wellenbach, who is known as the people’s hero in the poker community and elsewhere, plays regularly and frequently donates large winnings to good causes. His most recent win will represent his largest charitable contribution to date, easily surpassing his previous record of $72,176.
Although Wellenbach has been a religious person since a young age, he has embraced the game of poker relatively recently. Now 67, he has only been playing serious competitive poker for the last ten years.
In that time he has personally given a lot of thought to the disconnect between living with Buddhist discipline while also taking no prisoners at a gambling table.
“I suppose I rationalize it by giving my winnings to charity,” he said. Recipients of past winnings include several Buddhist organizations, plus Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders. He has not yet decided the recipient of his latest windfall.
While some may take issue with the disconnect between Buddhist philosophy and a game that many would consider a vice and a dangerous influence, Wellenbach sees the two strong interests in his life as generally compatible.
“Poker gives you a tremendous opportunity to work with the heavens and hells of your mind,” he said. “You’re winning and losing every minute-and-a-half, and so some sense of how your hopes and fears go up and down with the passing circumstance of the world is brought to fore at the poker table.”
How can you not love this guy? Scott Wellenbach explains why he will be giving all of his winnings away. Watch that and then check our live #PCA updates as Wellenbach continues to compete for $1.5 million.
— PokerStarsBlog (@PokerStarsBlog) January 16, 2019
As any serious poker player can attest, navigating those highs and lows is a huge part of the game. Wellenbach credits the discipline he has honed through regular meditation has played a role in his success at the table, reporting that on the way to his last win he had felt his discipline was extremely strong.
Despite this win representing Wellenbach’s largest so far, he still found himself frustrated that he couldn’t go all the way this time, instead settling for his third-place finish.
“I have a lot to learn about how to play poker at this level, with these guys who are so, so good,” he said. In any case, he enjoyed the interaction and camaraderie along the way.
“I really feel the poker environment is greatly enhanced by friendliness and conversation and decency amongst the players,” Wellenbach said.