News National Two-up: How to play and why it is illegal except on Anzac Day
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Two-up: How to play and why it is illegal except on Anzac Day

Participants playing two-up on Anzac Day at The Australian Hotel 2016
Participants playing two-up on Anzac Day at The Australian Hotel 2016. Photo: Getty
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Two-up is a traditional Australian game played on Anzac Day in pubs and RSL club’s across the country. The game is illegal on most other days of the year.

The origins of the game evolved from pitch and toss, a gambling game that involved tossing a single coin in the air and betting on the result.

Two-up became popular in the 18th century among poor English and Irish citizens.

By the 1850s, the game was being played on the goldfields in Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill.

In World War I, Australian soldiers played the game in trenches and on troop ships. Therefore two-up has a strong association with Anzac Day.

The game was also played to celebrate the return of the soldiers.

Why is it illegal to play?

Two-up is illegal to play because the game is an unregulated form of gambling.

In the 1800s to 1930s the nickname for the person who warned players of any incoming police was called the cockatoo.

However in 1989, the Gaming and Betting Amendment Act declared that playing two-up on Anzac Day was not illegal in New South Wales.

They also distinguished that two-up games can be conducted in NSW on Victory in the Pacific Day (August 15) and Remembrance Day but only after 12pm.

Broken Hill has a special licence from the NSW government permitting two-up to be played all year round.

In 1991, Victoria followed the same law and legalised two-up on Anzac Day.

The law requires that the game must be played on a not for profit basis. If the game is held at a club, there should be no entry fee and all proceeds must be donated to charity.

However in NSW, a participant in the game is not guilty of an offence under section 14 of the Unlawful Gambling Act 1998 unless it is proved they knew or should have known the game was unlawful.

How do you play two-up?

  1. A designated ‘spinner’ tosses two (or three) coins into the air off a bit of wood known as a ‘kip’.
  2. The players stand in a circle known as the ‘ring’. They will bet on whether the coins will fall on both heads, both tails or one head and one tail. This is known as odds.
  3. Two heads mean the spinner wins, two tails mean the spinner loses their bet and the right to spin. Odds mean the spinner throws again.
  4. The coins must fly three metres into the air, not touch the roof and have to fall within the ring.
  5. The other members around the ring place side bets against each other on whether the spinner will win or loose and the results of the next throw.