Danny Johnson of Pinkcoin Talks Poker, Bitcoin, & his Crypto Journey


Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 24 seconds

Pinkcoin Danny Johnson interview

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We sat down with Danny Johnson of Pinkcoin. Danny started Pinkcoin in 2014 as one of the first Proof-of-Stake chains.

Pinkcoin’s goal? To revolutionize charitable giving by bringing it into a blockchain via a cryptocurrency. Danny had quite a unique introduction into cryptocurrency. Check out his story in our interview!

This is Part 2! Check out Part 1 of Danny Johnson’s interview here, for even more great info about Pinkcoin and how it works!

Who are you, and how did get involved in cryptocurrency?

My name is Danny Johnson, and I’m the founder of Pinkcoin. I heard about cryptocurrency in 2011, after an event where the FBI and the Department of Justice raided all my poker sites in the US and shut them down to American players.

I was a poker player, and I was looking for a way to bank myself. So I stumbled upon bitcoin, and I paid attention for two years because the friction was so hard to get in. But then in 2013 I pulled the trigger, and jumped headfirst into the space ever since.

How did poker get you on the path to crypto?

I was a professional poker player for a decade. I started online playing in major live tournaments throughout the world – World Series of Poker, the Poker World Tour, European Poker Tour. I was traveling a lot. Mostly my bread and butter was online, playing tournaments. I was backing players, meaning I would sponsor their buy-in, and then get 50% of their profit in return. And I was coaching players. So I had three streams of income through poker, and I thought I was doing pretty well. Most of my money was online – probably 95% of my net worth was online at those times.

But then the FBI and the Department of Justice worked together to shut down these three major sites. With that I realized that I was not in control of my assets, and I started looking for other avenues that could help me control my assets.

Then when I looked into bitcoin, I realized that it had way more properties that I could use personally, as a poker player, and a lot of my friend group that were in a similar circumstance. Because as a poker player – if you’re playing live tournaments and live cash games especially – you’re dealing with large cash transactions that banks generally don’t want to mess with. A lot of banks get kind of scared off with a lot of cash transactions. They’re asking questions, wondering, “Is this drug money?” And so after a while, a lot of poker players – myself included – have banks shut their accounts down.

Do you see any similarities between crypto and playing poker?

The gaming behind it. You have a logical, mathematical thinking process, as well as deductive reasoning, and all these skills that you acquire through playing. If you’re trading cryptocurrencies, you kind of use these same skills. They apply directly to trading. You have a high-risk tolerance; you’re thinking about things logically, matematically, probabilisticly; assigning expected value to decisions for investing in – as well as playing a hand of poker. So there is so much overlapping crossover, I was just blown away. I thought, “Man, this is really suited my skill set that I’ve been training ten years for.” And it has a lot of implications to my personal life, not only from the playing aspect.

So I was a guy in 2014, during the World Series game of poker, who’s an absolute evangelist for cryptocurrency. At the main event, I was holding 30-person seminars during a 15-minute break where we had standing-room-only. Everyone’s listening to me preach about bitcoin. I probably talked to about 300 people. Everyone’s at my table at that time, and only one person actually bought some at that time.

Then over the last four years, 90% of the people I talked to reached out in some capacity, like, “Hey man, I remember you talking about bitcoin. Like, how do I get in? What do I do?” Or, “I’ve got some. Where do I put it? How do I store it?” There was all this information they were reaching back out for because it was now relevant to them, because they heard about it from people they trust or in the media, or they saw the speculative investment in it. Whatever the case may be, they were interested now.

So it’s kind of interesting how it evolved. Now there’s a ton of poker players, who are into crypto, and that have almost stopped playing poker altogether. Because crypto is so interesting to them, and they’re more passionate about it, or it’s more lucrative to them – whatever it may be. So you have guys like Doug Polk, who is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world of poker for the last two years – a high-stakes killer. And he’s now dedicating almost all of his time to crypto, and has one of the most popular YouTube channels, and is introducing crypto the masses of poker.

How does it feel to be apart of a technology that hasn’t been around that long, for most of its life span?

I guess I was in pretty early, considering that 90% of the people in now, were not in prior to a year ago probably. But still, 2013 is four/five years after it launched. So it wasn’t that early, all things considered, but it was relatively early I guess.

It feels pretty amazing honestly, like considering that in 2013 and 2014 no one really wanted to hear about bitcoin. Everyone hears you say “cryptocurrency,” “bitcoin,” “blockchain;” like okay, close ears. They’d just turn themselves off and avoid the conversation at all costs because they didn’t understand it. People were fearful of it given the narrative and in the media.

Now we’ve come full-circle where it is a topic of conversation people are interested in; and people that matter are interested. People are just thirsty for information. So it feels pretty spectacular to have been apart of it, and have had the foresight to really jump into it with the full conviction that this is going to be a revolutionary, disruptive technology, and I should be apart of it as much as I could/can be.

Are you from originally from Chicago?

I am originally from Vancouver, Canada. I went to high school in Washington State and the San Juan Islands. Then I went to college in Hawaii, at Hawaii Pacific University. I lived there for twelve years, and then I moved to Chicago a little over two and a half years ago. My wife and I had our first kid, and we decided we wanted to be closer to her family. They’re all 4th generation Hyde Park-ers. So we moved to Hyde Park, and it was the best decisions we’ve made.

What have you found interesting about the Chicago crypto scene?

It’s deep. There’s a lot of Chicago crypto enthusiasts. A lot of great projects are coming out of Chicago, and a lot of very smart and knowledgeable people. I mean, you have arguably four of the top twenty or fifty universities in the country, just within 10 miles of each other (Northwestern, University of Chicago, DePaul). It’s endless amounts of talent and young people who are thirsty to learn and contribute. It’s pretty damn rare.

So I think untapped – or starting to become tapped – resource for blockchain development. There’s a lot of talent, and a lot of projects starting up. I think there’s some projects right now, like Blockchain WTF, that are starting to showcase this talent. Like what Disruption Joe’s doing. It’s like incubating and bringing these projects to the forefront and helping them develop and show people, “Hey, this great stuff is happening in Chicago. Come pay attention.”

What makes cities other than Chicago feel so much different?

There’s generally a kind of segregation in a way. Like if you have a lot of money, and you’re also very sharp in technology, generally you’re not going to be as socially adept to the situation, and may be more reclusive. And if you have a lot of money, you might perceive yourself as somewhat of a high class, and you’re not gonna want to mingle with the low class people.

So there’s a lot of disparity between different groups. It’s like there’s not much cultural mingling (I don’t really want to say cultural, but like, what is it? Status? Job title? Social skills?). I don’t really know what the gap is… But it exists, and there’s not much mingling within that, so there’s not much community that’s been developed.

Whereas in Chicago, it’s got everything. It’s not just tech, and it’s not just money. It’s kind of a melting pot for business and all of the financial markets. Plus students. It’s a lot of talent out here. People who are willing to be open, and get together, share ideas, contribute.

I mean New York is kind of the same. But it’s like everyone is in Manhattan. And let’s be honest, you have to be pretty wealthy to live in Manhattan. And you’re gonna have to be a certain type of person to survive in Manhattan – aggressive, fast-paced, probably wealthy. Probably not gonna want to take the time to meet up with other people and share ideas; and give your information and ideas away to contribute to other people.

So that’s why I think Chicago is unique in that way. There’s not that perceived hierarchy of class or of social standing. Everyone in Chicago is kind of the ‘blue collar’ mindset, where they’re willing to get their hands dirty, talk to each other, communicate, meet up, and share ideas. It’s kind of what I’ve found anyways.

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