fbpx

Two-Up: What Is It, How to Play and Why It’s Only Legal One Day a Year

Two-up

Two-up is amongst the greatest of Aussie traditions. Much like muck-up day, goon of fortune, and the Bunnings sausage sizzle, two-up is one of those bizarre Antipodean quirks that makes up the rich tapestry of Australian culture.

Played with two coins, a paddle, and a crowd of beer-drinking revellers, two-up is effortlessly simple and endlessly fun. On one sacred day each year, the paddle is dusted off and the crowds descend on their local watering hole, ready and willing to chance it all on the flip of the coins.

Depending on your interpretation of ANZAC Day, this is either your go-to pastime or something you’d rather didn’t happen and detract from the solemnity of the day. Most people land somewhere in between however and, as the game itself is a tradition descending from ANZAC troops, it’s got historical precedent as a valid activity.

If you’ve never played, it’s worth giving it a go this year. Not only do you get to hang out with your friends in the sun, but you also get to engage in a little bit of ANZAC tradition. While the COVID threat is still something to consider, as the game is played outside, it’s certainly less risky than some.

Come in, spinner!

What Is Two-Up?

Two-up

Two-up is a traditional coin-flipping game with money wagered by observers on the outcome of the flip. It draws big crows on ANZAC Day and usually goes on from midday until sunset.

It’s a fun, cheeky way to spend an afternoon once a year, with connotations of remembrance and respect for fallen soldiers. However, the game is inescapably just gambling, something Australia has a bit of an issue with.

While gambling is typically given free rein in Australia, two-up is actually categorised as “illegal gambling” in most state and federal laws since it is unstructured and played without official regulation. Therefore, two-up is banned throughout the rest of the year.

Most states have rewritten their gambling laws to allow the playing of two-up on ANZAC Day only. It’s the one day of the year on which you can gamble on the game and not get into trouble.

Why Do We Play Two-Up?

Two-up is a game that goes back to Australia’s gold mining days. In the mid-1800s you would have seen people in mining towns flipping coins and taking bets as a means of gambling and having fun.

It probably got its start from Irish and English immigrants coming to the country to seek their fortune, but was also noted as being popular amongst convicts as early as 1798.

When the soldiers went off to Europe to fight in WWI, two-up went with them. It’s an easily accessible game requiring very little equipment to play. They might not always have had a deck of cards, but finding two bits of metal to flip and a paddle or “kip” to throw with wouldn’t have been hard.

As it was played by the soldiers, the game got wrapped up in memorial traditions of honouring those fallen in conflict. As ANZAC Day is the biggest such day, held originally to mark the first landing at Gallipoli in modern Turkey in 1915, playing two-up became synonymous with remembrance.

How to Play Two-Up

The game itself is a little complex and can be intimidating for first-timers, especially if you walk into an in-progress game and no one explains just what the hell is happening.

Essentially, playing two-up means you are betting with other people around you on how two coins will land. Anyone can join at any time and you don’t have to continue playing afterwards (though you’ll probably want to).

A designated “spinner” – the person flipping the coins – stands in the middle of the ring surrounded by players. They hold a paddle or “kip” with two coins on it and throw the coins above their head which must then land in the ring. Special coins are often used which are tailor-made for the game.

There is a ring keeper or “ringie” who acts as an MC during the event, announcing the flip of the coins and generally bantering with the crowd. People in the crowd typically take turns being the spinner, with anyone allowed to flip the coins.

Before the flip, players make bets with each other on how the coins will land and when all bets are in, the spinner throws the coins – often to a roar of “come in, spinner!”

There is no central authority in charge of the betting – if you want to make a bet, you hold up cash and shout your bet into the crowd. You can bet one of two ways; hold your money on your head to bet on heads, or by your bum to bet on tails. Someone with an opposing bet will match you and once all bets are matched, the coins are flipped.

For example, you want to bet $10 on heads. Hold $10 cash by your head and shout “heads!”. Someone who thinks the coins will land on tails will say “tails” and typically they will hold both your money and their money until the coins are flipped. If you win, they’ll give you the whole $20, if you lose, they keep the money. It’s a remarkably trusting system but it works.

Coins can either land both on heads, both on tails, or “odds” meaning heads and tails. If the coins land odds, they are flipped again and again until a match is shown. If the coins land on odds five times, this is called “odding out” and the bets are reset, though often the game will just continue until a match is shown.

Once you get the hang of it, you can volunteer to be the spinner. The spinner must bet and generally bets heads. The spinner stays on until they lose a bet, at which point the kip is handed to the next spinner.

Any amount of money can be bet, though normally bets are in the $5-$50 range. Sometimes you’ll see big bets of $100 plus and it’s not unheard of for people to wager $500 to $1000 on a single flip.

Safety First

All venues hosting two-up in 2022 will need to adhere to their state’s COVID rules. This might mean spacing requirements and a limited number of patrons within venues, although almost every state has now repealed their indoor and outdoor spacing rules.

Two-up is typically played outside which is good for COVID safety, but it does involve large, often intoxicated crowds, which is certainly a risk.

The game also involves the passing of cash between players. Cash was largely phased out during the height of the pandemic due to possible transmission issues so this should be another point of consideration for punters.

If you want to play two-up in the most COVID-safe way possible, try and attend venues that are likely to attract smaller crowds. Masks might be a good idea. Hand sanitiser is probably a good option, and money should be cleaned as it is passed around to limit contamination risk.

All of Australia will be getting a public holiday for ANZAC Day this year as it falls on a Monday. However, work will still need to be attended on Tuesday, so probably best not to get too carried away.

If you are going to play two-up, don’t wager more than you can afford to lose. Take breaks so as not to get too wrapped up in the heat of the moment and try to avoid “chasing losses.” Sometimes the coins are just not in your favour and no amount of cash can bring them back.

Stay safe, have fun, and good luck.

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.