Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Games Around the World: Two Up (Australia)

As the Australian memorial day of Anzac Day recently passed (April 25), it seems an ideal time to introduce the popular Australian gambling game of Two Up. The game only requires two pennies and a flat throwing stick called a kip and can be played nearly anywhere.

The thrower or spinner simply tosses the two pennies from the kip into the air with people betting between each other (or against the house) on whether the result are two heads or two tails. A head and a tail (odds) results in a re-throw. The spinner continues throwing until throwing tails when a new spinner is introduced with the shout of Come In Spinner.

In pubs and clubs around Australia, the raucous yells and spirited screams for the spinner to throw the chosen combination (fueled by a steady flow of alcohol) have become synonymous with Anzac Day.

With its origins in early convict days, the game popularised during the gold rushes of the 1850s and in the World War I trenches in Europe. Maybe as a salute to history, Two Up continues to be played with pennies though Australia moved to decimal currency in 1966. Interestingly, Two Up was illegal for many years and remains illegal on any day (outside of casinos) except Anzac Day with the introduction of laws over the past fifteen years to permit this traditional game in memory of our service men and women.

On Anzac Day after the solemnity and quiet reflection of the dawn service, military marches and haunting lone bugler playing The Last Post, people file to the pubs for lunch and a game of Two Up. It is a wonderful Australian tradition and I strongly encourage visitors in Australia in late April to participate, win or lose a few dollars and ensure they have their turn as spinner.
At the start of each month this year, Travel Wonders features a popular or characteristic game played during my travels. Previous articles feature the popular African game mancala, my own personal favourite that always travels with me, Pass the Pigs and the Latin American game of dominoes.

Photo Credit: spinner


Barbara Weibel said...

I love the fact that Australia saw fit to exclude Anzac Day when they made this game illegal for the rest of the day. What a unique and wonderful way to honor the memory of your soldiers. Touched my heart.

Homes said...

This is the first time I hear about this Two Up game and despite the fact that I am defending this strict anti-gambling phylosophy, this game kind of intrigued me. Sounds like fun!

Mark H said...

@barbara: I wholeheartedly agree. It isquirky that a game is legal on one day of the year for cultural and memorial reasons.

Mark H said...

@homes: I think this goes beyond the sense of gambling. Interestingly there is a claim that no-one has ever been found with gambling issues because of Two Up.

DEK said...

It is sad that the government the veterans fought for should outlaw an innocent game that gave them pleasure during their struggle.

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