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How To Play Two-Up On Anzac Day

If you've ever walked past a pub on Anzac Day, chances are you've seen or at least heard a game of two-up taking place.

To outsiders, the time-honoured tradition and its huge crowd of spectators can seem difficult to understand, but for Aussies, it's a must-do on April 25.

So in case you've forgotten your two-up rules--  or just want a refresher ahead of commemorations -- here's a quick recap.

Two-up is played inside a ring where two players face-off in a game that is slightly similar to 'heads or tails'.

Patrons take part in a traditional game of Two-Up on Anzac Day, at the Australian Hotel in Sydney. Image: AAP

The spinner -- the person who tosses the two coins -- will place a cash bet on heads, meaning they're betting that both of their coins will land with the heads side facing up.

The game can't progress until someone matches that same bet on tails.

If both coins land on heads then the spinner takes both their own money and that of the other person who matched the bet on tails. The opposite is true if both coins fall on tails.

So how are the coins flipped?
A two-up kip. Image: AP

Both coins are placed on a wooden paddle known as a kip. One faces heads and the other tails, and only once both coins are on and bets are made can the kip be flipped by the spinner.

So how does the game end?

A spinner wins if they land three consecutive 'heads' in a row.

If the spinner tosses two tails, then the bet is lost and the spinner forfeits their spinning rights.

The spinner can also 'odd out', meaning there are five tosses in a row where the coins land one on heads, the other on tails.

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If that's all just a bit too confusing, fear not, because there is someone else in the spinning ring who can help you figure it out.

The Rigkeeper or Boxer has the important role of managing both the spinning and the betting.

The Rigkeeper is known for calling out the most important line in a game of two-up: "Come in Spinner!"

Essentially, it means all bets have been placed and the spinning can officially begin.

Image: AAP

But while two-up brings in huge crowds in bars, pubs and RSL clubs across the country every year on Anzac Day -- it isn't an everyday game.

In Australia, states and territories regulate gambling, and two-up is legalised only on ANZAC day.

Victorian legislation goes even further and says two-up can only be played when it's organised or authorised by a branch or sub-branch of the RSL.

Despite the protective legislation, two-up can be played in a number of casinos across the country, which Monash University gambling expert Dr. Charles Livingstone says could "debase the tradition somewhat".

Image: AAP/ Corporal (CPL) Ricky Fuller

"In any event, two-up has cemented its place in Australian tradition for whatever reason, and needs little protection," Livingstone told 10 daily.

"Two-up epitomises the 'larrikin' tradition of Australian troops, and for those returning from the front after the horrors of WWI, it may have reminded them of the few moments of relative relaxation they could find during their time on the Western Front," he added.

Livingstone said his own grandfather, who was a veteran of Gallipoli and the Palestine campaign, had never mentioned two-up upon his return.

"I suspect it was largely something the troops on the Western Front engaged in, but that is not clear," Livingstone said.

Australian troops playing a game of two up on the Western Front in Belgium during World War I on 23rd October 1917. Photo: AAP

And despite being cemented as an ANZAC tradition, two-up likely originated much earlier, with Irish and English convicts playing a similar game but with only one coin, Livingstone said.

It later became a popular pastime in the goldfields in the 1850s and then became a part of the "backstreets" of Sydney and Melbourne in the early twentieth century.

But it, of course, became most popular in WWI among Australian troops, particularly in France.

"Two-up became a way of whiling away the time between dealing with the horror and bloodshed of the front," Livingstone said.

"Sitting around, waiting to learn what disastrous idea the British High Command would come up with next, would be enough to encourage most people to while away a few hours gambling."

He said it probably became popular because it was easy to play "at a moment's notice" and needed little more than "a couple of pennies and a willing group of gamblers." He also reckoned commanders would have turned a blind eye to such games amongst the troops, as it would have been a great way for troops to "let off steam or relax their very tense nerves".

But Livingstone said today there was one clear rule to follow in two-up.

"It is a good idea to have a budget for the game, and retire from the ring when you've lost that."