Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated 'Spinner' throwing two coins into the air. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads up, both tails up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail (known as 'Odds'). It is traditionally played on ANZAC Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers through the ages."'


The exact origins of Two-up are obscure, but it seems to have evolved from pitch and toss, a gambling game involving tossing a single coin into the air and wagering on the result. Two-up was popular amongst poorer English and Irish citizens in the 18th century. The predilection of the convicts for this game was noted as early as 1798 by New South Wales's first Judge Advocate, as well as the lack of skill involved and the large losses. By the 1850's, the two-coin form was being played on the goldfields of the eastern colonies and it was spread across the country following subsequent goldrushes. Two-up was played extensively by Australia's soldiers during World War I and games, to which a blind eye was cast, became a regular part of ANZAC Day celebrations for returned soldiers.

As time passed, increasingly elaborate illegal "two-up schools" grew around Australia, to the consternation of authorities Fact|date=August 2007 but with the backing of corrupt police. The legendary Thommo's Two-up School, which operated at various locations in Sydney from the early years of the 20th century until at least 1979 [Hickie, David. The Prince and The Premier, p. 155] , was one of Australia's first major illegal gambling operations. The popularity of Two-up declined after the 1950s as more sophisticated forms of gambling like Baccarat gained popularity in illegal gaming houses and poker machines (slot machines) were legalised in clubs.

Legal Two-up arrived with its introduction as a "table" game at the new casino in Hobart in 1973 and is still offered in some Australian casinos. Two-up has also been legalised* on ANZAC Day, when it is played in Returned Servicemen's Leagues (RSL) clubs and hotels. Several tourist "Two-up schools" in the Outback have also been legalised. According to the NSW Gambling (Two-Up) Act 1998, two-up in NSW is not unlawful on ANZAC day. []



A person is selected as the Spinner (generally greeted to loud calls of "Come in Spinner!" by the rest of the players). The Spinner will be tossing the coins in the air using the kip until they win or lose.

The basic format of the game:
* Two heads means the Spinner wins.
* Two tails means the Spinner loses.
* Odds means the Spinner throws again.

The Spinner is required to place a bet before their first throw that must be covered (equalled) by another player. If the Spinner wins they keep the bet and cover, otherwise it goes to the player who covered the bet. The Boxer takes a commission out of this bet. cite book | title=The Australian Encyclopaedia Vol. II | editor=A.W. Jose et al. | pages = 600-601 | publisher=Angus & Robertson | location=Sydney | year=1926 ]

The other members of the group place side bets (bets against each other) on whether the Spinner will win or lose and the result of the next throw.


Variations revolve around the definition of "win" and "lose" for the Spinner. Some variations include:

* The Spinner only wins after successive heads, i.e.: three heads are thrown before a tails, with any number of Odds. e.g.: "Odds, Heads, Odds, Odds, Heads, Odds, Heads" would be a win assuming three heads are required.
* If the Spinner throws successive Odds they lose, i.e.: five Odds are thrown before a tails. e.g.: "Odds, Heads, Odds, Odds, Heads, Odds, Odds" would be a loss assuming three heads are required and five Odds is a loss.

When played in casinos the Spinner's bet is covered by the house, as are the side-bets by the group of punters.

In Popular Culture

On 17 November 2004, the Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, remarked in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly that:::"One of the charities most involved in problem gambling, the Wesley Community Legal Service, a body dealing with problem gamblers, has confirmed it has never encountered a problem gambler addicted to two-up. That is an interesting bit of trivia for everyone to take home with them." [!OpenDocument]

In 1978, the Australian group the Little River Band released "Sleeper Catcher", their fourth album. In the liner notes it says:::"Sometimes called "Australia's National Game", two-up is a form of gambling which, though illegal, has long been a favourite pastime. The "Sleeper Catcher", an accepted participant in the game, retrieves bets left on the floor by tardy backers."

The movie "The Sundowners" contains a sequence in which several Australian drovers (one of them portrayed by Robert Mitchum) play a game of two-up, with appropriate bets. One of the players calls out "Fair Go", which translates roughly as "Play fair". Appropriately, the action in the game on-screen is rapid and without hesitations or false starts, but this makes it more difficult for the audience to determine the rules.

A similar sequence can be found in the 1971 film Wake in Fright.

The book "Come In Spinner" takes its name from the call.


External links

* [$File/Project_1999AGCHA.pdf Australian gambling - Comparative history and analysis] - report published by the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority

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