Buddhist Poker Player Wins $600,000, Gives It All To Charity

by : Emily Brown on : 24 Jan 2019 19:50
Buddhist wins $670,000 playing poker, donates it all to charityBuddhist wins $670,000 playing poker, donates it all to charityPixabay/PokerStarsBlog/Twitter

A Buddhist poker player won over $600,000 in a tournament, but rather than hold on to his winnings or risk gambling them away, he gave it away to charity.

Scott Wellenbach works as a translator of Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist texts for a religious non-profit, but when he’s not doing that, apparently he’s raking in the money with his poker skills.


After winning an online tournament, the Canadian earned his place in PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a poker tournament which is held annually at Atlantis casino in the Bahamas, where he came third and won $671,240 (£518,868).

At this point the more greedy of you (like myself) might be wondering what the top prize was, if coming in third earned you over $600,000, but greed is not the point of this story.

I have actually tried my hand at gambling at the Atlantis casino in the Bahamas, but unlike Scott I wasn’t partaking in any big competitions. Nor was I competing against actual people.


You see, a lot of the ‘minimum bets’ at tables in the casino are in the hundreds, and considering I’d spent the majority of my money just getting to the Bahamas, I chose to stick to $5 slot machines.

Even so, I promptly lost all of my money. Needless to say I didn’t have the same skills as the Buddhist, but at least I still have the casino player card to prove I’ve gambled at the same casino as the professionals.

Just FYI, you have to get the casino player card in order to play a single game, it’s not like I regularly holiday to the Bahamas.


Anyway, Scott was obviously much better than I am when it comes to gambling, but rather than celebrate his win by splashing the cash in some of the expensive designer shops located conveniently near the casino, he decided to do something much more wholesome.

The generous 67-year-old donated his winnings to charity, earning himself the nickname ‘the people’s hero’, the BBC report.

Scott became a Buddhist as a young man when he was searching for a way to cope with the dissatisfactions of life.

He meditates for about an hour every day, especially when taking part in poker tournaments, though he has admitted it’s hard to balance the peaceful Buddhist life with the rush of adrenaline felt when he has a good hand.


According to the BBC, he explained:

My personal discipline waxes and wanes.

Down here at the poker tournament, my discipline was excellent every morning! I was so desperate for a little glimpse of sanity in the midst of all this.

Poker gives you a tremendous opportunity to work with the heavens and hells of your mind.

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.

Buddhist wins $670,000, donates to charityBuddhist wins $670,000, donates to charityPoker Stars Blog/Twitter

The Canadian added he has considered the ethical issues in playing a game that has left many without a penny in the bank, but said:

I suppose I rationalise it by giving my winnings to charity.

Scott is a truly lovely guy!

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life


BBC and 1 other
  1. BBC

    Buddhist poker player donates $600,000 win to charity

  2. Poker Stars Blog/Twitter