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Mark Griffin Looks Back on a Legacy in Pool

Mark Griffin (Diana Hoppe)

Over his sixty plus years in the Billiards Industry, Mark Griffin has outran a lot of things. He underwent a double lung transplant in 2015. A year later, Griffin started having issues with his retina and lost the use of his right eye. From what Griffin’s doctors tell him, he may have finally run into the obstacle that he can’t outrun. Griffin went to the doctor in October of this year, suffering with problems with his foot, and was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. This situation has quickly gotten worse and Mark has recently been informed that he doesn’t have much longer to live.

Griffin first got involved in the pool world during the 7th grade when his father purchased a table for their home. The table got so much use in the Griffin residence, that it needed to be recovered and Mark was the man for the job. Griffin started recovering more and more tables in the Alaska area, and he started becoming known for his speed and precision at the task. “I used to keep track in a book of every table that I did, but I stopped doing that when I reached 1000 tables in the book” said Griffin.

In early 1969, Griffin opened his first pool room, the Q & 8 Billiards. Griffin fondly remembered that the room was known as “The Den of Iniquity” back then. A year later, he expanded to a second pool room, Lazy Cue Billiards Academy in Mountain View, Alaska.  Griffin discovered that a love for the game sometimes isn’t enough to make a living and found himself taking odd jobs to make ends meet. “I worked for Thrifty Rental Cars, washing cars for a year” Griffin remembered. “I couldn’t get a real job. They always told me I was overqualified”.

Grady Mathews with Mark in 2007

Griffin finally found himself involved in the bingo scene in Alaska and became one of the biggest sellers of bingo supplies in the state. He actually opened a Bingo Hall at the former location of one of the larger pool halls in Anchorage.

Griffin got back into pool in the late 80’s and hasn’t left the game since. He opened the Anchorage Billiard Palace in 1988, a room recognized by Billiards Digest as one of the best rooms in the game back then. In 1996, Griffin acquired College Billiards in San Diego and went on to purchase three other rooms in the San Diego area.

In 2001, Griffin became a major partner in Diamond Billiards Products, and provided the building that Diamond occupies to this day. In 2004, Griffin purchased the BCA Pool League from the Billiard Congress of America. The purchase of the BCA Leagues was the catalyst for creating Cue Sports International. “I was working twelve hour days, living in the offices, working on getting CSI going” said Griffin.

Griffin brought back the US Open Banks and One Pocket events in 2004, and ran them under the CSI umbrella, along with the BCA Pool League World Championship. Three years later, Griffin started the US Open 10-Ball, 14.1 and 8-Ball events. He would later add the US Bar Table Championships to the list of events that were ran by CSI.

Mark with Harry Platis in 2010

In 2007, Mark made a small contribution to help bring in commentators for a challenge match between Shane Van Boening and Corey Deuel. That challenge match would be the first match for the newly formed The Action Report (TAR) and Mark would be a part of it, along with Justin Collett, until the end. Mark got involved in the project, and provided the dedicated studio where they would record many of their matches. TAR helped create modern billiards streaming and we know it today. 

2009 was a big year for Griffin. He was named the “Man of the Year” by Billiards Digest magazine and he also created the USAPL League System. The USAPL continues to grow today, and boasts over 10,000 players in its system. “I think the USAPL will eventually be the best league system in the game.” Griffin predicts.

With the large number of events that were being run by CSI all over the country, a system was needed to display brackets online and CTS on Demand was created. The decades worth of data that had been accumulated by CTS on Demand amounted to nearly a million matches and became the starting ground for the FargoRate system. Mark helped to financially support the business’s creation. 

In 2016, a year after his double lung transplant, Mark opened Griff’s Bar & Billiards in Las Vegas, which has remained one of the premier pool rooms in the sport today.

Mark with Mary Kenniston in 2011

Not everything that Griffin did in the industry was even seen by most fans of the game. For example, after a shortfall by the tournament director of the UPA Desert Shoot Out in 2008, Griffin stepped in and covered the deficit in prize money of over $20,000 to make sure that the top pros were paid what they had won. He did this without fanfare or accolades. He did it to help take care of the game.

Through all of the projects that Griffin has been a part of, he has never been shy to express his opinion, and today is no different. Griffin still offers his opinion on the happenings in the game today. “The pro game is great for the players today, but the system is still broken” said Griffin. “It eats its young. The big players keep talking about working together, but it doesn’t happen. ”

Griffin does see the positive things in the sport today though. “Savannah Easton is going to be another Jean Balukas” he says. “She has all of the talent and a great team behind her”. Griff’s is the home of multiple top juniors, including Easton and Jin Powell. 

With a list of accomplishments as long as Griffin’s, you would think that he had done everything he wanted to do in the game. That would not be the case though. “I was never able to get the movers and shakers of the industry together for a consortium, like I had hoped to” Griffin explains. “The power brokers of the industry never seem to be able to put aside their differences and work together. There has always been an attitude in the game that in order to win, your competitor needs to lose. That needs to change.”

Greg Sullivan and Ralf Souquet with Mark in 2008

As Mark finds himself near the end of his journey, he is still hard at work every day on mapping out the future for the various interests that he has in the game. “Griff’s will stay open. To the average person, they won’t know anything has changed. I just won’t be there” he says. Griffin has a tournament director chosen to keep the pro events that he owns going long into the future. “The US Open 8-Ball and 10-Ball will be in March, and the One Pocket and Banks will be later in the year” he explains.

Griffin has been a major partner in OB Cues for the last five years, but his recent illness is going to force OB to either restructure or close their doors. 

Mark was the proud owner of one of the largest Cue Stick collections in the country. He also owned one of the largest printed media collections and was involved in all facets of the industry. “

One of the things that Griffin is the most proud of is the fact that he always paid the players what they were owed. “I never did say I was going to do a lot of things. I just did them. “ Griffin proudly says. 

It’s been a long road for Griffin. He has seen the billiards industry from just about every angle. He has been a major contributor in the creation of a number of important parts of today’s game. He’s been a player, table mechanic, room owner, league operator, tournament director, promoter and has helped to fund Diamond, Fargo Rate, The Action Report, OB CUES and much much more. While some people may not agree with everything Mark has said and done during his long illustrious career, no one can argue that he didn’t help this game to be better than it was when he first got involved with it, so many years ago.

In respect for Mark and his current health conditions, please refrain from calling him. Communication via email would be preferred. As the inevitable comes closer, there will be announcements for services and remembrances. 

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