Unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Services 

 Search  &  Help Recruits Military History Hall of Heroes Indigenous Slouch hat + ARMY Today Uniforms Badges

 Colours & Flags Weapons Food Equipment Assorted Medals Armour Navy Air Power 

Nurses - Medical Tributes Poetry - Music Posters & Signs Leaders The Enemy Humour Links Killing Anzac

Click to escape. Subject to Crown Copyright
Category: Assorted

Click to go up one level


Two Up or 'Swy', the Digger's gambling game.

Two up pennies, 1915 British, as used in France

A gambling game. Two coins are tossed in the air and bets placed on a showing of two heads or two tails. The two coins are placed tails up on a flat board called the kip or paddle. The ring-keeper (the person in charge of the two-up ring) calls "come in spinner", and the spinner tosses the coins. First recorded 1854. (As in boxing the "ring" is sometimes square.)

Toss the coins  (using a 'paddle' or 'kip' ) and two heads you win, one of each toss again, or a pair of tails you lose.

"Come in Spinner"

Pennies for the game of 'two-up'. Australian, 1915. As used in WW1 and WW2. 

Punters wave five dollar notes above their heads as they yell for bets.

Once they are placed, a recruit from the raucous crowd flips the coins, which must spin above the flipper's head and land within the special demarcated two-up square (the "ring"). 

Shouts go up as the coins are flung and there's much swearing and cheering as money changes hands.

And then it starts all over again.

As can be seen from the central photo organised "schools" mark the coins for easy identification.


From an article on line by the Sydney Morning Herald, 2004.

"Two-up" is a traditional game which is true-blue Australian, invented in old Australia, and allowed to played LEGALLY in public only on special days, such as ANZAC Day public holiday, since it's actually gambling...Of, course you can gamble and play it any time in an Australian casino.
A smooth area of 3 metres diameter is used with any number of players participating. 
  • Here's the terminology used in the game:
    • KIP : Piece of wood on which the pennies (coins) are placed for spinning (called "paddle" in some places)
    • RINGER : Person in charge of the game
    • SPINNER : Player spinning the coins
    • COCKATOO : Keeps a lookout for the "Law" aka Police !

The RINGER will call for the "SPINNER" who will place a bet with the "BOXER". When this is set, side bets may be made, for either Heads or Tails. The "RINGER" will then call "Come in Spinner", the "SPINNER" will then walk into the centre of the RING and toss the coins upwards.

If the coins land with 2 Heads facing UP, it is called "HEADS". 2 Tails is called "TAILED THEM", and when one of each is showing, then it is "ODDS". The coins must be tossed until a result is obtained.
The game is for the "SPINNER" to spin as many pairs of "HEADS" as possible. 

When 2 Tails are showing, the "SPINNER" passes the "KIP" to another person. The modern game is now played with three coins thus giving a quicker result i.e. 2 HEADS or 2 TAILS.

The Australian Army two-up set with display box, commemorating 100 years of service to the nation

Since its formation in March 1901, the Australian Army has fought in every major world conflict of the 20th Century, most recently becoming involved in UN peacekeeping missions. The Australian Army has not just defended Australia but played an important role in protecting the rights of people in other countries. In 2001, we celebrated the Centenary of the Australian Army and the traditions forged by our troops over the years.

Two-Up is one of Australia's oldest military traditions. This beautifully displayed set features two special commemorative brass-finished pennies, each struck with a leaping Kangaroo on the reverse and the Australian Army centenary crest on the obverse. The jarrah kip measures 190mm x 45mm x 10mm. The set comes in as new condition in the display box of issue, along with an official information card.

History of the two-up set

From the AWM site

In the following account, Mr M. G. Heuston, who served with 2/12th Commando Squadron, during the Second World War, describes the history of his two-up set.

While assessing the profitability and “legality” (i.e., being able to be discreetly obvious to potential players, but not really obvious to management within the area) [of running a game of swy or two-up , as it was better known in the Middle East], I met a Middle East instructor who was awaiting discharge on medical grounds. He had a very nice set of pennies and a lot of experience in running. I was also told by him that the bulk of the “very new Queen”, “young Queen”, the “veiled Queen” and many of the “Baldies” pennies had been given to him by his father who used them through the First World War. There were also a number of British George V pennies and one set of the only Australian penny of George V.

After negotiation, I acquired at a price the game and the right to run it in my unit at Bathurst.

From Bathurst I moved to Canungra. There was virtually no free time to use the pennies at all here. I staged in Brisbane and ran a few games before heading by train to Townsville (Armstrong’s paddock). I ran quite a few lucrative games there before being transferred to Morotai.

On this trip the convoy met some hostility, which meant that we sought the safety of Biack Harbour, where we hove to for some eight days. It was on the ship that the rule of tossing pennies in a circle was changed to utilise a hatch cover. If the pennies stayed on the hatch cover, they were in play.

From there we moved to Morotai, and while waiting for action in Borneo I conducted an extremely large (and lucrative) game at the back of our staging area. Many nationalities were attracted by my game. I later arrived at Labuan just off the west coast of Borneo, where, after all action had been completed, I ran a few games.

From there, the unit transferred to the Lintang Barracks on the outskirts of Kuching, where I was able to conduct some more games in my spare time, when not looking after the thousands of Japanese prisoners who were being held in case they were needed for evidence in the war crimes trials.

Then we went back to Labuan in Borneo, where we were on-shipped to New Britain and staged in a camp in Rabaul, not near the harbour but over Tunnel Hill. Here I got myself a position as sports manager and organiser to the unit, and as well as running football, athletics and basketball, I had the position and the time to conduct the swy game.

When I was eventually shipped back to Australia I quickly put all my pennies away and did or said nothing about them until this year [ 2002], when someone who knew me asked me to give a talk about it at Rotary. With this encouragement, I organised the set and prepared the pennies for forwarding to the Australian War Memorial.

The game of two-up

from the AWM site

M. G. Heuston, who served with 2/12th Commando Squadron during the Second World War, ran a two-up game during this time. In the following account, he gives explains how the game was played.

To stage a game required a quiet spot, with a flat area big enough for an 18- or 20-foot radius circle clearly etched in the dirt. This was done with twine, with two loops, one at each end, using bayonets to mark the circle.

The boxer or manager of the game sat with his coins, kips, string and money tray in the place where he could view the whole ring clearly.

The ringie, who was usually a friend who volunteered, ran the centre of the ring.

When the game was about to commence, there would be a number of people around and outside the circle. The boxer would call and ask for a spinner, who would have the right to select whether he wanted to play two-up or swy (also know as “sudden death”).

The kip would then hold two or three pennies, depending on the game. (Some of the kips were smooth, with no ridges in the wood. It was illegal for anyone to use their fingers in the game I ran, so we had “lips” on the various kips for right or left handed spinners who were not adept at using the smooth kip. The plastic used on some of the kips I used was taken from crashed planes on the side of the airstrip at Morotai.)

The spinner would then select the coins that he wished to use (Queens, new or old, baldies, George V, etc.).

The head side on each penny was polished and the tail side was left dark, so that it was obvious to anyone around the ring whether the coin fell as head or tail.

It was the ringie’s job to ensure that the coins were tossed at least 10 feet into the air, and that they spun well and were not “feathered” in any way. If the coins didn't’t satisfy these specifications in his opinion, he would call “ foul toss ” and catch one of the coins.

The ringie would place the coins tail up on the kip. The call “come in spinner ” was made from the box. The spinner then tossed the coins. All pennies (whether two or three) had to fall within the circle. If one fell outside or on the circle, it was declared void by the ringie. The spinner then had another turn.

While this was happening, side bets were allowed around the ring. There were two distinct types of betting:

  • betting that the spinner would toss heads or tails
  • other tail betters would bet 3/1 that heads would not be tossed twice.

In all cases, the bets were held in front of the tail better, who covered them in every instance before the boxer called “come in spinner”.

The spinner had the right to continue spinning while ever he tossed heads. If he tossed three heads in a row, the boxer would take his commission out of the centre (the guts) and the spinner had the right to toss the kip (and take the money) or continue spinning. The change of spinner went clockwise around the ring.

If the spinner got to six heads in a row, the boxer took another commission, and the game continued until the spinner tossed tails or tossed the kip.

In some places, a multitude of currencies was used. It was the boxer’s call which stated the exchange rate for any or all currency. In addition, he could exchange currencies.

At the end of the game, if the tail betters had had a good day, they would sling the boxer, to compensate him for the use of his facilities.

As the game was held more often than once a week, you found that some of your customers went broke. The boxer usually lent them enough for cigarettes and a beer until next pay.

A game would run for up to three or four hours.

Glossary of terms

the game owner.
the supervisor in the ring.
the flat board used to throw the coins.
the player who throws or tosses the pennies.
Queens, Baldies, George V or VI:
coins available for the spinner to choose. (The Queen is Queen Victoria; the Baldie is Edward VII.)
Toss the kip:
to pull out of the game and take the stake.
the name for those who bet only on tails. In most cases, they chose not to spin the coins.
a tip given to the boxer

Statistics : Over 35 million page visitors since  11 Nov 2002  



 Search   Help     Guestbook   Get Updates   Last Post    The Ode      FAQ     Digger Forum

Click for news

Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces