Scott Wellenbach is 66 years old and lives an unassuming life in Halifax translating Buddhist teachings from Sanskrit and Tibetan.

He's also a pretty awesome poker player.

Earlier this month, Wellenbach won $92,000 at an international tournament in Spain, and now he's doing something many people couldn't fathom — giving it all away.

It's something he's done for many years any time he's won money at cards.

"I have a job, I'm OK financially, I don't really need the money, I have a place to live, I'll be able to eat without those funds," Wellenbach told CBC's Information Morning.

scott Wellenbach

Scott Wellenbach, right, has worked for more than 30 years translating Buddhist teachings from Sanskrit and Tibetan. (


Wellenbach travelled to Barcelona to participate in the six-day PokerStars Championship Tournament. He placed 17th out of 1,700 competitors, winning the equivalent of about $92,000.

"I'd like to think I'm better than most of the players there — there's, say, 20 to 25 per cent of the players who are professionals," he said. "This is what they do, as opposed to myself, and they are really, really good and I feel I have to be on my toes every moment, every hand, in order to be competitive."

Wellenbach has worked for more than 30 years translating Buddhist teachings, but said he doesn't give his money away because of his religious beliefs.

He enjoys playing poker but doesn't like the thought of taking money from people who may be in crisis.

"A significant amount of your money is won from people who are too addicted, too drunk, too unstudied or too masochistic to play well — and we all have those features within us," he said.

"In any case, I feel there's a tension about winning money under those circumstances and I guess I rationalize my addiction by giving away the winnings, saying, 'Well, at least I'm doing good things with it.'"

Considering charities

Wellenbach was one of 50 people who qualified for the Barcelona poker event through an online tournament earlier this summer. His trip was paid for and it cost him about $50 to enter.

He said he's still recovering from the trip and hasn't decided yet where he will donate the money.

"I typically give to very traditional charities: Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, people who feed and clothe and house those who are in need," he said.

Wellenbach said he also likes giving to Buddhist nunneries in Nepal and Tibet.

"Buddhism, like many religions, has had a difficulty with gender bias and I think it's very important to support the education of young nuns or young women," he said.

"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."

With files from Information Morning