Australian soldiers playing two-up in Ypres, Belgium, in 1917.

Australian soldiers playing two-up in Ypres, Belgium, in 1917. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - E01199.

Two-up: the Game Loved by Our Troops

How this simple game of chance became part of the ANZAC Day tradition.

On ANZAC Day, shouts of “come in spinner” will roar across bars, RSLs and the Flemington Front Lawn.

The simple game of chance, involving tossing pennies and betting on the outcome, has become part of the ANZAC Day tradition, after it was popularised amongst Australian troops in the First World War.

Only requiring two coins, someone to toss and someone to call the outcome made it an easily accessible game when soldiers had some time off. And as Michael Annett, the secretary of the Victorian Branch of the RSL puts it: “Australians, as we all know, would bet on two flies crawling up a wall.” (source)

Upon returning from the war, particularly after the First World War, it became a game very much associated with old mates getting together on ANZAC Day and thus the tradition began.

Technically illegal, because it was an unregulated form of gambling, regular games were played at all times of year at various secret venues around Melbourne - many of them run by former Footscray footballer Lionel ‘Nappy’ Ollington. 

In 1991 the Victorian Government approved the state’s first legal game of two-up, which was played at Flemington after the ANZAC Day races, at the rear of the Hill Stand. It was overseen, naturally, by Nappy Ollington. The outspoken local RSL President, Bruce Ruxton, was the first ‘spinner’.

Two-up continues to be part of the ANZAC Day Raceday tradition at Flemington Racecourse, now overseen by Nappy Ollington’s son, Steven Ollington. With games between the first and last race, all proceeds will be donated back to the RSL. 

Learn how to play on the Front Lawn from 12pm before the first official 'spin' kicks off at 1pm. More info on ANZAC Day Raceday here.