When Americans think of Memorial Day, they think of a barbecue and a day off of work. When Australians think of Anzac Day, they also think of two things… cookies and gambling!
This is better already, isn’t it?
I’ve already discussed the joys of Anzac Biscuits, but the gambling part is just as fun (unless you lose money). The Anzac soldiers were said to pass time playing two-up, a very simple gambling game. When they returned from overseas, they kept the game alive. The basic rules are as follows:
People place their bets and then the “boxer”, or game manager, says it’s time to stop betting and let the action begin. Then the “spinner”, a person holding a little paddle with two coins on it, tosses the coins up in the air. The “ringie”, a person on the sidelines watching every move, ensures that there’s no interference and then collects the coins after each toss.
If both coins land heads, then heads wins. If both coins land tails, then tails wins (hence the name “two-up”, because you need two coins facing the same way up). If one coin lands heads and the other lands tails, it’s a re-toss. Some versions of the game utilize three coins instead of two thus eliminating the need for re-tosses (if two of three or all three coins land heads, then heads wins, and the same with tails).
If you want to bet heads, you hold up money in the air and someone who wants to bet tails will come up to you. The person betting tails then hands the money to the person betting heads. The person betting heads always holds the money. If heads wins, then they keep the cash. If tails wins, they give the lot to their opponent.
It’s a very simple game.
Despite being simple, it still is a gambling game, and is therefore illegal outside of a casino. Back in the day, secret illegal two-up gambling rings sprouted up all over the place and had to be shut down by the police, though authorities generally turned a blind eye to two-up on Anzac Day as a token of appreciation to the soldiers.
Nowadays, two-up has been legalized for play on Anzac Day only, and people fill up their local pubs to get in on the action. I met up with Jessica, Guy, and their posse at the Beresford in Surry Hills for a little Anzac Day action – gay style. Why gay style? Because of this:
Yes, the Beresford is a quasi-gay venue in a gaybourhood, but I was totally not expecting a drag queen to be the boxer – especially a drag queen with monster rubber tits and a camouflage dress.
So, the drag queen boxer (right) said it was time to play and the spinner (middle) – some random girl from the audience – tossed the coins and the ringie (left) – Miss Anzac – called it heads.
And I lost $10 to some not-all-that-attractive stranger that I bet against.
And so I went back to the bar and bought another pint of Coopers.
I’ll win back my $10 next year.