A very special celebration took place in Australia and New Zealand this week – Anzac Day. Popular British royal, Prince William attended, as he met New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Their talks will have been sombre but for pubs and RSL clubs (the Returned and Services League) across the two countries, the day will have been extremely busy as locals get their annual chance to play the elusive gambling game Two-up. The coin game can be played only once a year and is illegal on most other days.
The origins of Two-up
The popular game began in the 1800s and was mainly played by low-class English and Irish people. It made its way to Australia in the 1850s when soldiers returned from battle, where it featured strongly in RSL clubs and pubs. Two-up first became a success with Australian soldiers overseas who wanted to pass time and have a little fun with very few resources.
Although illegal, the police would turn a blind eye to the game back then. But over the past 30 years, most clubs and pubs have almost eradicated the traditional play, and only allow it to return on Anzac Day in their establishments.
Laws to prevent the game
The Gambling Regulation Act in Victoria states that RSL clubs must gain permission for every Two-up game played and all profits go to the charity Anzac Appeal, which benefits Australian veterans.
In New South Wales, there is a law specifically dedicated to the game, The Gambling (Two-up) Act. This law states that it is a legal game only on Anzac Day, Victory in the Pacific Day and Remembrance Day.
The NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming said: “The Gambling (Two-up) Act 1998 does not legalize the playing of Two-up at any other time. The only exception to this is Broken Hill, where Two-up is played all year round under a special license from the NSW government.”
How to play
Essentially, this game takes us back to the simple days of heads or tails. To start, two coins are placed tails up, on a flat board called a kip or paddle. People wishing to place bets form a ring. The ring keeper then calls “come in, spinner”. This signals the coins are to be thrown into the air by another person, who is called the spinner.
Both coins need to land on either both heads or both tails to win. If they do not land on the same side, there is a replay and the coins are thrown again.
Each player says how much cash they are willing to gamble, and the bet must be matched by both players. One player picks tails and one picks heads – both players cannot gamble on the same result. The winner is the player who predicts correctly heads or tails, and therefore takes all the cash – or gives it to charity.