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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, or misere ouvert 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.
In skat, the bidding can result in a null game, where the bidder wins only if they lose every trick. (Conversely, the opponents win by forcing the bidder to take a trick.)
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.
- The game of Nim is often played using the misère play condition, as in the film Last Year at Marienbad.
- Perhaps the only misère combinatorial game played competitively in an organized forum is sprouts.
- Lowball is a form of poker in which the lowest-scoring hand wins.
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- Parlett, David (1996). Oxford Dictionary of card Games, Oxford University Press, pg. 162. ISBN 0-19-869173-4
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Berlekamp, Elwyn R.; John H. Conway; Richard K. Guy (1982). Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-091102-7. Revised and reprinted as: – (2001–2004). Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays (2nd ed.). A K Peters Ltd. ISBN 1-56881-144-6.
- Conway, John Horton (1976). On numbers and games. Academic Press. ISBN 0121863506.
Revised and reprinted as: – (2000). On numbers and games. A K Peters Ltd. ISBN 1568811276.