I perfectly understand HTML tables, how to use rowspan, colspan, cell alignment, how to use spacer .gifs, embed tables inside of other tables, etc., etc. I do know HTML pretty well.
Photoshop does a decent job of creating basic tables, which as mentioned, can be embedded into the document and MODIFIED as needed. How much have you actually used Photoshop slices? I am surprised how much you are against them. Most programmers I know think they are helpful, even if they are not absolutely needed.
Also, regarding slices, they are great for exporting the images even if you don't want to export HTML. If you insist, then you can create the table by hand. Heck, you can even avoid using the easy table generator button in Dreamweaver and manually type all of the tags if you so choose. However, you can still use the images that were cut and exported with Photoshop slices in your manually typed table (which I do all the time). Slices are a HUGE time saver if only used for exporting the images (and yes, I know Photoshop very well so I could manually crop everything if I really wanted too).
Slices are great. You can easily select and modify slice dimensions with a simple click and drag. Also, what if you want to move one of the design elements inside one of your PSD layers (which happens to span multiple slices)? With a couple more mouse clicks, you can resave ALL of the images slices without needed to crop, flatten, and then export each image separately. Why is this so bad? It seems pretty handy to me.