Return of a great ANZAC Day tradition

Return of a great ANZAC Day tradition

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions across Australia has meant that the age-old and famed Anzac Day tradition of two-up can return to local pubs and clubs this year.

The beloved Australian betting game - part of a tradition as ingrained as the Anzac legend itself - was missed last year to the closure of RSLs and cancellation of Anzac services under COVID-19 restrictions.

2020 saw Anzac Day marches cancelled across the country while only official dignitaries were allowed to attend remembrance services. The rest of the country were encouraged to stand on their driveways with a torch instead.

While some Australians find Anzac Day a sombre occasion and march wearing relatives’ medals, others see it as a raucous time at the pub playing two-up on the only day of the year the game is legal.

Ahead of Anzac day, NSW Veterans Affairs Minister Geoff Lee urged veterans to book their post-march reunions early ‘so you get a place and get together with your mates and even play two-up.’

What is two-up?

First played by World War I veterans, the popular pub game has continued to be played every Anzac Day in their memory.

The game was introduced to Australia by the English and Irish as ‘pitch and toss’ and was popular among soldiers.

Though a rope is used to mark out a 10m circle in today’s renditions, veterans would originally use bayonets.

When it comes to actually playing the game, the rules are fairly simple and can be found on the Australian War Memorial website.

Using a small wooden board known as a ‘kip’, the player, known as a spinner, tosses two to three pennies in the air and the other players bet on which side they’ll land.

Money can be wagered on whether both the coins land on heads, tails, or odds (one head and one tail).

The spinner wins with two heads, loses on tails and can’t spin again, and throws again if it’s odds.

Before the spinner can toss the coins, the ringie, who runs the ring, will call ‘come in spinner’. The ringie ensures that the coins are thrown more than three metres in the air and don’t touch the roof or land outside of the ring.

As per tradition, winning punters decide whether to tip the spinner for their services.

Is two-up legal in Australia?

Since two-up is considered an unregulated form of gambling, the game is prohibited on every day except for Anzac Day.

On the day, licensed premises can host games provided they donate all of the proceeds to charity.

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Prior to the NSW government restricting gameplay in 1981, two-up continued to be played among returning veterans across the country.

Two years later, Victoria followed suit in banning the game, followed by the rest of the states.

Today, the game can be played in most Australian pubs or RSLs to commemorate the pastime.

Where can I play two-up this year?

Come Sunday afternoon, your best choice will be your local pub or club. But state COVID-19 restrictions will differ when it comes to how many people can play at each venue.

In NSW, rules developed by authorities restrict gameplay to outside only, with players spaced two square metres from each other, and the surrounding crowd can only place bets with players directly next to them.

On the NSW Government website, NSW Health wrote, ‘If you choose to watch or play two-up you should follow the COVID restrictions of the venue where you are playing at as well as the general advice about Anzac Day social activities.’

As for venues, NSW Health advised them to ‘discourage participants from passing through the crowd to make/take bets’.

ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis condemned the move, telling The Daily Telegraph, ‘It would help if someone could explain why playing two-up is considered riskier than dancing together, sitting next to each other for hours in a movie theatre of attending a football match in a crowd of thousands.’

Some venues have said the restrictive guidelines mean they can’t host two-up.

‘The guidelines are so strict that we will not be holding Two Up at the club this year,’ Hendrik Vesser, chief executive of Balgowlah RSL told The Daily Telegraph.

Vesser went on to say, ‘They are too restrictive, for a start they say we have to hold it outside and we normally hold it in the function room so that creates issues for us.’

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