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Misere or misère (French for "destitution"; equivalent terms in other languages include bettel, contrabola, devole, null, pobre) is a bid in various card games, and the player who bids misere undertakes to win no tricks or as few as possible, usually at no trump, in the round to be played. This does not allow sufficient variety to constitute a game in its own right, but it is the basis of such trick-avoidance games as Hearts, and provides an optional contract for most games involving an auction.

A misere bid usually indicates an extremely poor hand, hence the name. An open or lay down misere is a 500 bid where the player is so sure of losing every trick that they undertake to do so with their cards placed face-up on the table. Consequently, 'lay down misere' is Australian gambling slang for a predicted easy victory.

The word is first recorded in this sense in the rules for the game "Boston" in the late 18th century.

Misère game

A misère game is a game that is played according to its conventional rules, except that it is "played to lose"; that is, the winner is the one who loses according to the normal game rules. Such games generally have rulesets that normally encourage players to win; for example, most variations of draughts (known as "checkers" in the United States) require players to make a capture move if it is available; thus, in the misère variation, players can force their opponents to take numerous checkers through intentionally "poor" play.

In combinatorial game theory, a misère game is one played according to the "misère play condition"; that is, a player unable to move wins.(This is opposed to the "normal play condition" in which a player unable to move loses.) For most games this is the same as the ordinary use of the word, but a very few games are actually misère games according to their standard rules, for example Sylver coinage.

Other uses

Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy