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A beginner's guide to two-up in Canberra

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The odds in a game of two-up are simple. The pennies fly in the air, and, in a traditional two-coin game, you can either have two heads, two tails, or one of each.

According to Professor of Statistics and Probability Ross Maller from the Australian National University, that’s a 25 per cent chance, a 25 per cent chance, and a 50 per cent chance respectively.

Then there’s the three-coin version, also known as “swy” or sudden death, whereby there is always a result – 50 per cent heads, 50 per cent tails.

Despite the simple odds, you won’t find Professor Maller betting in the game, or on anything else for that matter – “because I know something about probability,” he said.

“It is a simple game, it’s easily understood, all you need is two pennies, and everybody can see exactly what the situation is,” he said.


But he warned against people trying to play the odds or to look for ‘runs’ of heads or tails and think a particular result is due.

“Every toss is independent of every other one,” he said.

“[Punters] can look for what they like, as long as they don’t put their house on it. The pennies don’t care what happens to them on the last toss.”

The game, synonymous with ANZAC Day due to its popularity amongst Australian soldiers in the First World War, is legal for just one day a year in the ACT. Players must be over 18 years of age, and any profits (beyond the money exchanged between punters) must be donated to charity.

Players surround a central ring, offering a bet on either heads or tails. They are then paired with someone betting the opposite way, before a “spinner” is called to toss the coins in the air using a small wooden bat known as the kip.

For ringer Roland Trebesius, who will be running the three-coin two-up game at the Canberra Services Club site in Manuka, a good spin means a good game.

“It’s in the wrist. You’ve got to lift it and give it a bit of a flick,” he said.

 “It is a good feeling to see good spins in the air. Then all I’ve got to do is call the result.”

Despite the fact that it’s only played once a year, the 20-year two-up ringer would like to see a few practices formalised to make life easier for everyone.

“The spinner spins for heads, and the tail-better holds the money,” he advised. “If that could be standardised everywhere, it’ll improve the game.”

He said generally there were two types of people – those who bet with the coins, tending to stick with either heads or tails, and those who bet both ways, sometimes trying to judge which way they think the spinner will throw.

But ultimately, the game was more about “camaraderie”, “fairness” and a bit of “good old Australian bantering”.

“It’s a fair game. I don’t know if there’s a fairer game,” he said.

“Usually people are very friendly about handing over their money to someone else, because the odds are there. I’m sure lots of friendships have been made over a game of two-up.

“It’s a good feeling to see people having a good time. There’s no agro.”

The Canberra Services Club will be putting on its second open-air ANZAC Day and two-up since the club burnt down in 2011.

President Matthew Harvey said they were expecting another large turnout after last year’s successful event, and said the aim of the day was to make sure everyone just had a good time.

“For us this is more about engaging with our members, and reminding everyone that we are still here,” he said. “It’s always been our biggest day of the year.”

Club memberships will be available on the day.

Two-up venues in Canberra

North side:

  • Mercure Canberra (formerly Olims, Ainslie) – from 12pm to 6pm
  • The Duxton (O’Connor) – from 11am all day
  • The Dickson Tradies – from 12pm to 6pm in The Marquee
  • Ainslie Football Club – from 12pm to 5pm
  • Labor Club Belconnen – from 12pm
  • Siren Bar & Restaurant (Gungahlin) – from 12pm
  • Gungahlin Lakes Golf Club – from 12pm to 5pm

South side:

  • Canberra Services Club site (Manuka) – from 1pm
  • The Canberra Irish Club (Weston) – from 1pm to 6pm
  • Burns Club (Kambah) – from 1pm
  • Vikings Erindale – from 12pm to 6pm
  • Vikings Chisholm – from 12pm to 6pm