Poker champ Scott Wellenbach gives his winnings since 2010Copyright of the image


Poker champ Scott Wellenbach gives his winnings since 2010

Buddhism and high stakes poker may seem strange, but for Scott Wellenbach, they go together.

The Canadian poker player is ranked third at a poker tournament in the Bahamas, winning $ 671,240 (£ 518,868).

As usual, he donates all his earnings to charity, giving him the nickname of "hero of the people".

"As a Buddhist practitioner, we sit and meditate a lot, and it's free," he told the BBC.

When he does not buy, Mr. Wellenbach works as a translator of Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist texts for a nonprofit religious.

He came to religion as a young man, looking for a way to deal with the dissatisfactions of life.

Now 67, he meditates for about an hour every day, but never as much as when he participates in a poker tournament.

"My personal discipline is increasing and decreasing gradually," he said.

"At the poker tournament, my discipline was excellent every morning! I had so wanted a little glimpse of my sanity in the middle of it all."

Although he learned to play poker as a child, he only really played until 2010, when he won a free trip to Las Vegas.

He was sent to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament in the Bahamas after winning an online tournament.

Until yesterday, his biggest win was $ 72,176. He ranked third in the main event of the Bahamas tournament, which he described as "bitter-sweet".

"I have a lot to learn about how to play poker at this level, with these guys who are so, so good," he said.

How does he reconcile his Buddhist practice – which emphasis makes peace with the impermanence of life – with the adrenaline rush of a flush?

"With great difficulty," he admitted.

He is concerned about the ethics of playing a game that has left many in financial ruin.

"I suppose I justify it by giving my earnings to charities," he said. He donates to several Buddhist charities, as well as Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.

But in a way, he sees poker as a great microcosm of the contradictions of existence.

"Poker gives you a great opportunity to work with the heavens and the underworld of your mind," he said.

"You win and lose every minute and a half, and you get an idea of ​​how your hopes and fears go hand in hand with the circumstances that are happening in the world that goes to the poker table."