Two-up is a traditional Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 game, involving a designated 'Spinner' throwing two or three coins into the air. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both (obverse) heads up, both (reverse) tails up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail (known as 'Odds'). It is traditionally played on ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

 in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers
Digger (soldier)
Digger is an Australian and New Zealand military slang term for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. It originated during World War I.- Origin :...

 through the ages.

The game is traditionally played with pennies -- their weight, size, and surface design make them ideal for the game. Weight and size make them stable on the 'kip' and easy to spin in the air. Decimal coins are generally considered to be too small and light and they don't 'fly' so well. The design of pennies that date pre 1939 had the sovereign's head on the obverse (front) and the reverse was totally covered in writing making the result very easy and quick to see. Pennies can often be observed being used at games on Anzac Day, as they are brought out specifically for this purpose each year.


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
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

's first Judge Advocate, as well as the lack of skill involved and the large losses. By the 1850s, 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
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Games, to which a blind eye was cast, became a regular part of ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

 celebrations for returned soldiers.

As time passed, increasingly elaborate illegal "two-up schools" grew around Australia, to the consternation of authorities but with the backing of corrupt police. The legendary Thommo's Two-up School, which operated at various locations in Surry Hills, Sydney from the early years of the 20th century until at least 1979, 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
Baccarat is a card game, played at casinos and by gamblers. It is believed to have been introduced into France from Italy during the reign of King Charles VIII , and it is similar to Faro and Basset...

 gained popularity in illegal gaming houses and poker machines (slot machine
Slot machine
A slot machine , informally fruit machine , the slots , poker machine or "pokies" or simply slot is a casino gambling machine with three or more reels which spin when a button is pushed...

s) were legalised in clubs.

Legal Two-up arrived with its introduction as a "table" game at the new casino in Hobart
Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony,Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney. In 2009, the city had a greater area population of approximately 212,019. A resident of Hobart is known as...

 in 1973, but is now only offered in Perth's Burswood Entertainment Complex
Burswood Entertainment Complex
The Burswood Entertainment Complex is located on the Swan River near the city of Perth, Western Australia, and is owned by Crown Limited. The complex includes a 24-hour casino, seven restaurants, eight bars, a nightclub, two international hotels , a Convention Centre, Theatre and the Burswood Dome...

. Two-up has also been legalised on ANZAC Day, when it is played in Returned Servicemen's Leagues
Returned and Services League of Australia
The Returned and Services League of Australia is a support organisation for men and women who have served or are serving in the Australian Defence Force ....

 (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.
Term Meaning
Spinner The person who throws the coins up in the air. Each person in the group takes turns at being the spinner.
Boxer Person who manages the game and the betting, and doesn't participate in betting.
Ringkeeper (Ringy) Person who looks after the coins after each toss (to avoid loss or interference).
Kip A small piece of wood on which the coins are placed before being tossed. One coin is placed heads up, the other tails up.
Heads Both coins land with the 'head' side facing up. (Probability 25%)
Tails Both coins land with the 'tails' side facing up. (Probability 25%)
Odding Out To spin five "One Head - One Tail" in a row.
Odds or "One Them" One coin lands with the 'head' side up, and the other lands with the 'tails' side up. (Probability 50%)
Come in Spinner The call given by the boxer when all bets are placed and the coins are now ready to be tossed.
Cockatoo Only used in the 1800s to late 1930s (Due to legalisation of Two-Up on ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

), it was the nickname of the look-out who warned players of incoming police raids.

The table below show the current bets that can be made at the Burswood Casino in Perth.
Casino Odd's
Bet Type Casino Edge Payout Description
Single Head 3.125% 1-1 Spinner spins a pair of heads before a pair of tails or odding out.
Single Tail 3.125% 1-1 Spinner spins a pair of tails before a pair of heads or odding out.
Spinner's Bet 3.400% 15-2 Only available to the current spinner. Spinner spins three Heads or Tails, before either tailing out or getting the other result.
5 Odds 9.375% 28-1 Spinner spins five odds "HT" in a row before either a pair of heads or a pair of tails.


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 "One Them" 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.

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.

Sometimes three coins are used and the bet then is against the 'spinner' who must head them "I bet he tails 'em" rather than "odds em"

Popular culture

On 17 November 2004, the Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr
Bob Carr
Robert John "Bob" Carr , Australian statesman, was Premier of New South Wales from 4 April 1995 to 3 August 2005. He holds the record for the longest continuous service as premier of NSW...

, remarked in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly, or lower house, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of New South Wales, an Australian state. The other chamber is the Legislative Council. Both the Assembly and Council sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney...

In 1978, the Australian group the Little River Band
Little River Band
Little River Band is an Australian rock band, formed in Melbourne in early 1975.The group chose the name after passing a road sign leading to the Victorian township of Little River, near Geelong, on the way to a performance. Little River Band enjoyed sustained commercial success in not only...

 released Sleeper Catcher
Sleeper Catcher
Sleeper Catcher is the fourth album by the Little River Band, released during 1978. It reached #16 in the United States on the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart. The album was certified Platinum by the RIAA in 1979. From this album, the band earned its first two "top ten" U.S...

, their fourth album. In the liner notes it says:
The movie The Sundowners
The Sundowners
The Sundowners is a 1960 film that tells the story of an Australian outback family torn between the father's desires to continue his nomadic sheep-herding ways and the wife's and son's desire to settle down in one place...

contains a sequence in which several Australian drovers
Drover (Australian)
A drover in Australia is a person, typically an experienced stockman, who moves livestock, usually sheep or cattle, "on the hoof" over long distances. Reasons for droving may include: delivering animals to a new owner's property, taking animals to market, or moving animals during a drought in...

 (one of them portrayed by Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum
Robert Charles Durman Mitchum was an American film actor, author, composer and singer and is #23 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest male American screen legends of all time...

) 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
Wake in Fright
Wake in Fright is a 1971 Australian film directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Gary Bond, Donald Pleasence and Chips Rafferty. The screenplay was written by Evan Jones, based on Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel of the same name....


The book Come In Spinner
Come In Spinner
Come In Spinner is an Australian novel by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, originally published in 1951, and set in Sydney, Australia at the end of the second World War.The title refers to a phrase used in the Australian gambling game of two-up....

takes its name from the call.

In 2009, the television program Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities
Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities
Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities is a 13-part Australian television mini-series loosely based on real events that stemmed from the marijuana trade centred around the New South Wales town of Griffith. The timeline of the series is the years between 1976 and 1987. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities...

shows men taking part in games of Two-Up in one instance the police enter the establishment in which this is taking place and the contestants run and hide the equipment being used and money being gambled.
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