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The bucket shops described in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reminiscences_of_a_Stock_Opera... operated by offering incredible leverage and using actual ticker tape quotes, which, at the time, were delayed slightly.

They offered the 'service' of being able to trade large nominal amounts at the last market price, without market impact, but had incredible levels of margin -- 50-1+ or something like that.

This meant that customers often hit margin limits, incurring additional 'commissions' to close out their positions.

Operationally, the bucket shop netted long and short positions, and either actually traded the residual or, occasionally, would use market orders (e.g. aggressive sells) to push the punters into margin calls, which they would then execute. They would then buy low and cover their earlier positions.

Jesse Livermore managed to beat them through astute technical analysis and through the installation of a direct telegraph line from the exchange, thus beating his 'brokers', who promptly kicked him out.




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