Scott Wellenbach placed 17th out of 1,700 competitors at a PokerStars tournament in Barcelona.
Scott Wellenbach, a translator of Tibetan Buddhist texts, won big at a poker tournament in Barcelona last week. Wellenbach placed 17th out of 1,700 competitors and brought home 61,000 euros.
Wellenbach told CBC Radio that he plans to donate the winnings to charity — though he hasn’t decided which one. He said often donates to large humanitarian NGOs, but he also likes to support Tibetan Buddhist nunneries.
”Buddhism, like many traditions, has had a difficulty with gender bias, and I think it’s very important to support the education of young nuns,” Wellenbach told CBC.
“So in some sense, you’re supporting the Buddhist tradition, in some sense it’s an endeavour to support women’s education and I think the studies I’ve seen on the effectiveness of giving show that if you empower women, that’s about as big a bang for your buck as you can get.”
Wellenbach said that for many years he has donated all of his winnings from poker, since he doesn’t feel comfortable making money off of others’ suffering.
“A significant amount of money is won from people who are too addicted, too drunk, too unstudied, or too masochistic to play well. We all have those features within us, but some of us have managed to temper our addiction to some extent so that we can play better. There’s a tension about winning money under those circumstances. I guess I rationalize my addiction by giving away the winnings.”
How do you be kind and still try to win?
Wellenbach got to Barcelona through a series of online tournaments over the summer, winning an expenses-paid trip to Spain and the 5,500 euro entry to the tournament, where he spent almost a week playing poker for up to 12 hours at a time. At points, he was in first place, with the most chips on the table. He estimated that about a quarter of the players were professional, which meant that he had to be at the top of his game.
“In a tournament like this, one miss-step, and you lose your whole chip stack. You’re out.”
Wellenbach told PokerNews that his Buddhist training helped his game.
“When you practice meditation and develop the qualities of mindfulness and awareness, you become friends with yourself. You become more accustomed to all of those thoughts and emotions that course through our mind and often take control of us, emotionally or psychologically. As you become familiar with what’s going on with you, perhaps those thoughts and emotions have less power over you, so you can see more clearly what’s going on on the table, and what’s going on with you, and, hopefully, do the right thing. Although, the right thing — I would say — should involve kindness, which is always a challenge at the table. How do you be kind and still try to win?”
Wellenbach said that one of his favorite parts of the experience was having conversations with his fellow players. “Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in my life have been around the poker table. It’s a wonderful thing.”