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The 67-year-old from Halifax, who works as a translator of Buddhist documents, finished third in an international poker tournament in the Bahamas Wednesday night. The live Geld Gewinnen Online Casino casino online section at JackpotCity Geld Gewinnen Online Casino Casino allows players to stream live table games, online or via mobile, like blackjack and roulette, as well as gameshow-style games, in real time and in high definition. A Buddhist poker player from Halifax just won US$671,240 by finishing third in a tournament in the Bahamas, and he’s planning to give his profits to charity. 2020 Mani Event Mania Poker Tournament will be held from 10 of December till 3rd of January at the Bally's Las Vegas Casino. The tournament features over 30 events including events such as the H.O.R.S.E, Pot Limit Omaha, No Limit Hold’em and the Main Event. Wife and I usually enjoy dropping into a local casino while on vacation. We dropped in here while in Halifax for a night (November 2020). The place was depressing! Due to Covid, it is just a shell of what a casino should be. No table games, no food, no crowds, no music. Just a handful of sad looking people playing a scattered machine.
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When he’s not working as a translator of Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist texts, a job that sends him all over the globe, 67-year-old Scott Wellenbach plays poker.
And when he nets out winnings, whether it’s from a local poker room on the road or a big tournament, he says he gives it all away. Every cent.
That included the $670,000 he won in January by finishing in third place at the 2019 PCA Main Event. Wellenbach isn’t a professional poker player — he qualified for the event through an online satellite tournament, making his story even more incredible.
Why does the Philadelphia native who now lives in Nova Scotia, Halifax give it all away?
In an interview with For The Win (which has been edited and condensed), he explained his mindset: Wellenbach finds it’s his way of justifying his struggles with the morality of taking money off opponents while also enjoying the game of poker, and he’s grateful for the comfortable life he’s been able to lead even without the nearly $800,000 he’s won in major tournament appearances.
How did you get into playing poker?
In the late 1950s or early ’60s, my family would rent a house for two weeks or a month at the Jersey Shore. I’d be on the beach every day and on rainy days, the lifeguards would hang out in these huts with the beach chairs and umbrellas. They’d play poker and at the time I was eight or nine years old. I’d watch. They never let me play, but that’s where my interest started. I played in high school and at university off and on my whole life.
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When did you know you were good enough to play in these kinds of tournaments?
I would just play with friends. When I moved to Halifax in 1986, a casino opened a few years later. A few years after that, they opened a poker room. I was just playing locally. I also started to play a little online, for pennies, if that. They had a lot of free stuff. In 2010, I was playing on Party Poker and they had a freeroll. I ended up winning a trip to Las Vegas and I thought that was pretty cool. I didn’t win anything of substance at the tournament. The next one happened in 2013. I have pretty good luck or knack for online qualifiers. This trip to the PCA was the eighth trip I’ve won. In 2017, I won three trips. It’s amazing! I play with friends locally and when I travel, I enjoy playing at local poker rooms. It’s a great way to meet people.
Did you grow up a Buddhist?
I was born Jewish and was educated at a Quaker school. I became interested in Buddhism in high school. When I was 16, I took a course on Asian and African history and I was very political. We’re talking 1967, I was very politically active and oriented. I remember writing a paper on the prospects of revolution in Thailand. I came out of that course being interested in Eastern religion. When I went away to Yale, there were a lot of teachers traveling the college circuit. Whenever anyone came, I’d see them talk and try the meditation they instructed us in. I graduated in 1976 and was about to start at UPenn medical school. That summer, I thought, maybe I should become a Buddhist scholar. I moved to Boulder, Colorado and started studying Sanskrit and Tibetan. It was a volunteer job for eight years working as a translator and I started to teach, too.
How did Buddhism and poker intertwine for you? Is that what led you to the idea of donating your winnings?
That happened many years ago, it predated my success in these tournaments. When I decided to do that, it was local cash games and not that much money. Part of it was my job supports my basic living expenses and I had done well in investing. I had a financial cushion and I had certain moral qualms about the money you make at poker.
Poker has a dark side where people can get in trouble financially. Sometimes, you feel you’re making money off of people’s weaknesses, some people are addicted or drunk, some people haven’t studied enough, or have a strong masochistic trend. I felt really conflicted, but I have to say I’m somewhat addicted to the game myself. So I rationalized it and said, “If I win, I’ll donate it to a good cause.” That was my way of trying to resolve that tension.
When did you make this agreement with yourself?
It was so long ago I don’t remember. Also, what I mean is I donate my net winnings. Many nights, you lose. If I win $100 one night and lose $70 the next night, I’ll donate the profits.
Who have you donated to?
All kinds of different charities, some very standard ones, Amnesty International, Oxfam International, Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross. I’ve donated to local Nova Scotia charities and Buddhist causes. The last major win I had was in Barcelona in 2017 (editor’s note: He won $72,000), that went to support a Buddhist nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Is this agreement with yourself Buddhist or is it that you happened to be a Buddhist who gives away money?
I don’t know how to answer that question. No doubt it has something to do with my personality, but my personality led me to becoming a Buddhist. It also has to do with my circumstance, I have a good job that supports me and a good nest egg because of my investing. I think probably many Buddhists wouldn’t be able to support this. I’m 67, I don’t think I could do this if I was 27. At my age, I’ve provided for myself. My wife — who passed away in 2012 — and I weren’t able to have children, I have some to give to nephews and nieces. I’m part of a consortium of poker players called Raising for Effective Giving and I discovered this in 2015 after a poker tournament. It’s players who have pledged to give a certain percentage of their winnings. I’ve been supportive of the charities they’ve designated as interesting and effective.
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So you’re not the only philanthropist?
They’re quite generous perhaps because poker players recognize what a strange livelihood it is. I’m not sure. This isn’t true of myself, but those men and women on the circuit running around the world playing this crazy game for a living, maybe they want to ground themselves by doing something decent for the world. Whatever it is, poker players are generous.
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What did your wife think about you giving away the winnings?
She thought it was wonderful. She tolerated me sometimes being out late at night when she wished I was home, she was very forgiving and generous in that way and proud of my success. One of the things has justified it in her mind was we’re doing good things with our money.