For starters, I've been a long time defender of the specialist system. I still like it. I just don't like specialists. I like them less and less each day, and I'm more inclined to like the whole system less and less each day. For the past 22 months, I have averaged 100+ transactions a day on the NYSE. I say this to make clear that I have had ample opportunity to observe the games the boys play (I'm certainly not bragging about it. It proves I'm a glutton for punishment). To call much of it fraud would not be exaggerating. And let's pop the 'fair and orderly markets' bubble right now. LaBranche, by virtue of being the only publicly held specialist firm, has to disclose their numbers every quarter. And lo if their profit per dollar of principal traded hasn't moved to new highs last year, in the midst of one of the worst markets in a generation. Hmmm. Here's a game. He's working an order to sell 100. He pieces together the buys. Before filling, he posts 100 on the bid. Some poor sap like me runs to cover or even go long for a quick scalp. We get filled at the offer (if he's being generous, otherwise, .05+ higher). Next thing you know, there's 100k print at the bid and poof...it drops a dime.... He's got the order matched. What does he have to lose by posting a bid there for 100. If you try to hit him, he can print his fill first and leave you in the dust with 'orders ahead.' Most likely, that large bid size will bring in a bunch of buying so that he can short against his big order (by selling to you) and cover when he prints it (by filling the order he had standing) -- or a dime lower when I dump my long at market... Know a game? Feel free to contribute.