Misère (French for "destitution"), misere, bettel, betl, beddl or bettler (German for "beggar"; equivalent terms in other languages include Spanish: contrabola, pobre, and Italian: devole) is a bid in various card games, and the player who bids misère 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. The term or category may also be used for some card game of its own with the same aim, like Black Peter.
A misère bid usually indicates an extremely poor hand, hence the name. An open or lay down misère, or misère 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 misère' 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.) In Swedish Whist, by contrast, a null game is one in which both teams try to take the fewest tricks. This variation is known as ramsch in Skat.
In Spades, bidding for no tricks is known as bidding nil, which if successful gives the bidder a bonus.
A misère game or bettel 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. Or, if the game is for more than two players, the one who wins according to the normal game rules loses. Such games generally have rulesets that normally encourage players to win; for example, most variations of checkers (draughts) 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.
- 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: Berlekamp, Elwyn R. (2004). Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays (Second ed.). Routledge. ISBN 1-56881-144-6.
- Conway, John Horton (1976). On numbers and games. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-186350-6.
Revised and reprinted as: On numbers and games. A K Peters Ltd. 2000. ISBN 1-56881-127-6.