The World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event World Championship attracted Hollywood celebrities for years. Recent years saw Aaron Paul, Ray Romano, Kevin Pollak and Jason Alexander play with significant face time on broadcasts. Tucked away in the Amazon Room is two-time Academy Award nominee James Woods.
Woods is no stranger to poker and started playing at the WSOP in 2006. He’s had his best year in 2017 with four cashes and two deep runs – 34th place in the Super Seniors Event and 30th place in a $1,500 No Limit Deuce to Seven event.
He credits his year to improving from his circle of friends. “Honestly a lot of good players are my friends – the more you play the better friends they become. I try to play with better, more accomplished players,” Woods said. “I’ve been playing with Miami John, Ken Aldridge, Carol Fuchs to name a few. We talk poker all the time and the help me out.”
Woods registered for the Single Draw by accident – he thought he was registering for the Triple Draw variant of the game. “It was a different feeling cashing in that event because I had never played the game before,” said Woods. “I sat down and thought I was playing Triple Draw. I looked around and happened to be playing with Billy Baxter – who might be the greatest Deuce player to ever live.”
“I made a huge call on him with ace-high because he bet a little differently,” added Woods. “He told me I made a good call and told me I would be a good player because poker and people sense really count in that game. A little while later he gave me some tips.”
“I take poker very seriously, experience really helps. I read and study a lot,” Woods said. “I’ve gotten into the Mixed Games now. Steve Zolotow wrote an article a while ago where he said, ‘Playing in Mixed Games opens your poker sense.’ Everybody is good at No Limit Hold’em now, you know? With all the online tutorials and forums now – it made everyone great players.”
James Woods and Jennifer Tilly are the only Academy Award nominees with WSOP cashes. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)
“I’ve been fortunate to play with really good players and learn from it,” he said. “I played the Razz event and was playing against Jason Mercier, David Baker and Mike Matusow. I learned more in those three hours than could reading a book.”
Woods has never cashed in the Main Event, should he make the mark this year he would push his WSOP winnings past the six-figure mark. “I think it’ll be a sign that my efforts have matured,” he said. “You have to play one hand at a time and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“The nice thing for me is that I’m getting respect from the poker community now beyond coming in as a celebrity and fan of the game,” he said. “I’m trying to play like a professional, I’ve got the mind for it and I’ve always loved cards.”