Come in spinner: ANZAC Day and two up at the pub

two up 1952 Sydney ANZAC Day
Two-up was played extensively on the streets of Sydney after the war years as part of ANZAC Day commemorations. Picture: The Central Queensland Herald Thursday, May 1, 1952.

WHAT’S ANZAC Day without two-up?

Two-up was played extensively during World War I by Australian diggers, who would flip coins as a way of relieving boredom.

The exact origins of the gambling game are murky, but two-up is likely to have evolved from pitch and toss, which involved 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, and came with them to the colonies of Australia as a form of recreation.

Although illegal, two-up nevertheless became synonymous with ANZAC Day commemorations for returned soldiers after the Great War.

In the main, authorities would often look the other way when the game was played on ANZAC Day, until legislation was introduced in 1998 that made it legal to throw the coins on April 25.


SYDNEY, Sat — Soon after the Anzac Day march had ended yesterday two-up games were started on allotments and in parks, particularly the Domain. One of the biggest games, near the Hotel Australia, blocked traffic. Police tactfully broke the games up but they were resumed again soon after the police left.

– The Perth Daily News Saturday 26 April 1947.

The game is traditionally played on ANZAC Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with diggers through the ages.

Two-up involves a designated “spinner” throwing two coins or pennies above shoulder height from a small paddle. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads facing up, or both tails facing up, or with one coin a head and one a tail (known as “odds”). There is also a similar version of the game played with three coins.

The game is traditionally played with pennies – their weight, size, and surface design make them ideal for the game. Pennies can often be observed being used at games on Anzac Day, as they are brought out specifically for this purpose each year.

‘Two up’ can be played legally all year round in just two towns in Australia – Broken Hill, NSW and Kalgoorlier, Western Australia.

– With thanks: Two Up Wikipedia.

two up perth
Diggers playing two-up in the streets of Perth. Picture: Perth Daily News Saturday 26 April 1947.

Two-up Game on Anzac Day

SYDNEY, April 25. – About 50 men formed a two-up game outside a leading Newcastle Hotel 100 yards from the police station, as part of the Anzac Day celebrations today.

The men formed a ring on the footpath outside the hotel and played for over an hour, with bets of 2/- to £5 being laid.

During the height of the game a police car pulled up alongside the players. Policemen good-naturedly told the men to move on, and the game was quickly ended.

– The Central Queensland Herald Thursday 1 May 1952.

two up coins

Police look the other way

In King Street and Angel Place [Sydney] during the day large groups played “two-up” while policemen looked the other way. There were many other games of “two-up,” mostly outside the hotels. Some schools were held close to the entrance gates of Government House.

-The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 26 April 1952.

Angel Hotel Sydney 1936 straighetened anu
Angel Place, off Pitt Street, Sydney, was a laneway beside the Angel Hotel popular with diggers as a place to play two-up on ANZAC Day. This image shows the hotel and laneway in 1936. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University
angel place TG W 2016
Angel Place and the Angel Hotel in 2016. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection
two up coins

Two-up School Broken up by Police.

The chief of the Vice Squad, Detective-Sergeant R. Walden, yesterday directed a constable to break up an ex-Servicemen’s two-up game in Angel Place (Sydney). The two-up game has been played regularly in Angel Place on Anzac Day for the last seven years. Three members of the Vice Squad were posted to prevent the game restarting.

After yesterday’s city march, ex-Servicemen met in hundreds of hotels throughout the city and metropolitan area.

Afterwards, groups of up to 50 joined in two-up schools in several parts of the city.

Police said there were few two-up games yesterday compared with other years. They had been “very quiet and orderly.”

They said they intervened only to break up games where “ring-ins” were trying to “cash in” on the games.

– The Sydney Sunday Herald 26 April 1953

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