Devout Buddhist Wins $671,240 at Bahamas Poker Tournament, Gives it All to Charity

Scott Wellenbach donated his winnings to charity after coming in third place at a Bahamas poker tournament.
Scott Wellenbach donated his winnings to charity after coming in third place at a Bahamas poker tournament. (PokerStars)

An amateur poker player won $671,240 at a Bahamas tournament and gave it all away to charity.

Scott Wellenbach, a devout Buddhist from Halifax, Canada, donated his entire prize to a collection of charities, including Doctors Without Borders, after coming in third place at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament earlier this week.

“Buddhists can be very frugal,” Wellenbach, 67, joked, in an interview with PokerStars. “We sit around and meditate. We can do that for free – you know, doesn’t really cost anything.”

Wellenbach, who is a translator of Buddhist literature by day and an amateur poker player by night, explained he really didn’t anticipate such a big win, crediting it to his inexperience compared to the other players at the table.

“I’m the least experienced player at the table,” Wellenbach said. “But maybe I’m good enough that the poker gods smiled in my direction.”

In fact, he said his meditation and devout Buddhist practices come in play at the poker table. 

“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."

He explained he started playing as a boy until becoming interested in competing more seriously in 2010. Until his big win in the Bahamas, Wellenbach has never racked up a winning of more than $72,000, according to BBC.com.

But, Wellenbach has always donated whatever he takes home to both Buddhist charities and non-religious charities.

“Some nights you’re playing poker and you win, some nights you lose,” he told PokerStars. “For many years now, I’ve been giving my net profit, not winnings […] to charity.”

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