James said his brother's death has left the whole family stunned. Michael was reportedly in good health and had just returned to Rhode Island from a road trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker with his brother.
After coming home from work Wednesday, Michael complained of a sore throat. His fiancée, Lisa Konopka, took him to the hospital where he died within an hour at 7:35 p.m. The medical examiner's office later said the cause of death was heart disease.
Michael owned a local video rental store in Rhode Island for 15 years before selling it in 2000. That year he ran for mayor as a Democrat, losing to the current Republican Mayor Scott Avedisian, and ran again in 2004 with the same result. He and the mayor later became friends.
In addition to sometimes appearing in his brother's movies, he'd been working at a jewelry store identifying and appraising rare coins since 2002 while at the same time running Hollywood Poker.
In a recent interview, James credited Michael with the advice that helped him make his first cash at a World Series of Poker event and explained how Michael got his job with Hollywood Poker.
"He got his job because when we started the site, it was struggling, and he was on every night helping people, and my partner said, 'You should get your brother to work for the site. He's fantastic - people love him,' and now he runs the site," James said.
His presence is already missed at the site which has set up a Michael Woods forum category for members to talk about Michael and express their condolences and goodbyes.
Michael is survived by his mother, Martha Dixon, brother James, and three children, Jacqueline, Sarah and Payton.