The Oscar-nominated actor is in Las Vegas competing at the World Series of Poker and shared a ton of Hollywood celebrity stories with PokerListings.com.
Woods reminisces about being a struggling actor, hosting home games with Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire, and how he realized he was more comfortable playing the low-stakes.
“In the film business I play poker with a lot of people and a lot of them are very good players,” said Woods.
Woods has played with Nick Cassavetes, Norm Macdonald, Kevin Pollak and more, but it was one particular game Woods used to play in with Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire that made him realize poker isn't as much fun with too much money on the line.
“It's fun to play within your range but I see some of these games go crazy,” said Woods.
“I had a game that was $25/$50 Pot-Limit, Cap-Limit game that had been around for years in Hollywood. I inherited it from Vince Van Patten and a lot of really great players played in it.”
The line-up sometimes included poker pros like Mike Sexton, Annie Duke, Kathy Liebert and Dan Harrington, but also attracted celebrities like Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire.
When Woods' late mother became ill he took a break from acting to take care of her, moving to the East Coast and leaving the Hollywood home game.
“By the time I got back that game had gotten up to where people were winning $100,000 pots,” said Woods.
“You run out of players when it's $100,000 pots. I don't think it's fun when you can lose a house in a night.
“For some people it might be fun but not for me.”
Woods Learned from Hollywood's Best
Woods' caution towards high-stakes wagers may have been learned by listening to his fellow Hollywood actors.
Woods shared a real-life parable with us told to him by The Walking Dead and In Cold Blood actor Scott Wilson.
“When I was a young actor, a lot of the actors, we'd play gin to see who would eat sometimes,” said Woods.
“Scott Wilson told me a great story one time. It was right before he was in In Cold Blood and he was working at a gas station.
“He was hired by Richard Brooks to do this phenomenal movie that everyone wanted to be in. He did the movie, got his paycheck on a Friday and went right to Vegas, came back Monday and he was pumping gas again.”
Full Video of James Woods at 2014 WSOP
Check out the full six-minute video interview we did with James Woods while he was playing at the 2014 World Series of Poker.