Two-up was played extensively by Australian soldiers during World War I.
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.
Although two-up was an illegal form of gambling, it nevertheless became a regular part of ANZAC Day celebrations for returned soldiers after the Great War.
Authorities though often turned a blind eye to diggers playing the game on ANZAC Day, until legislation was introduced in 1998 that made it legal to play the game on April 25.
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 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.
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.
TWO-UP BLOCKS TRAFFIC
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.
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
YESTERDAY I had a look at the city to see if the Service organisations were right in declaring that it should be a sportless day. Hotels were open and so were fun-parlours and pictures. In Angel Place – or any other city alley – there were half a dozen two-up schools. Leading the game were people well known to the police as urgers, crooks, and people who have mastered the art of living without working. Normally they would have fled from the sight of a policeman. But yesterday they were sacred cows – free to fleece ex-Servicemen to their heart’s content. Would a race meeting from which the urgers and crooks would have been barred have been worse? I doubt it.
-The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 26 April 1952
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