So I noticed this redhead standing in line next to me at the rebuy/add-on table wearing a fleece jacket with a PokerTek logo. Being the naturally gregarious guy that I am, and never passing up an opportunity to find out about new poker toys, I said “Isn’t that the folks that make the computerized poker table?”
So when your game is called, you sit down at the table, slip your card in the reader, it deducts that tourney buy-in (or amount for your ring game) from your account, and you’re golden. So you're playing against other live players, and the money is real, but the chips and cards are virtual. I thought this would be kinda silly, but I had an absolute blast! It helped that I won the first tourney and was 2nd in the other (I think they took it easy on the writer guy).
Okay, what did I not like about it? Not much, and my one complaint is something that would fade with practice. I found myself spending a lot of time looking at the screen in front of me, or the screen in the center of the table, rather than looking at the other players. But this was due to lack of familiarity with the interface, and as the tourneys went on, my comfort level with the buttons I needed to tap increased to let me pay more attention.
What about tells? They’re different, but they exist. It’s not often, at least at the levels that I play, that you can pick up a reliable physical tell anyway, but obviously the things like reaching for chips, looking at stacks, etc. are all gone. But you can watch as people move their hand around different areas of the screen once you’re familiar with the layout, and see if their first instinct is to push bet, fold, or check. I caught myself doing that a couple of times, reaching for the button I intended to push, and I’m sure if anyone was paying close attention, they could have picked up on that.