DAY 214: At two-up school

2 Apr

AFTER sundown, we huddle on hay bales set in a circle around the front yard of this 1850s miner’s cottage, as a fiddler scratches out some tunes and tots of whisky are passed around.

Local chap Brian McCormick is going to teach the ruddy-cheeked, sentimental throng the basics of two-up – a game that took hold in the Goldfields of Victoria back when religion and pugilism were enthusiastic bedfellows. My experience of it is limited to wide-eyed viewings of Wake In Fright and halfheartedly standing around backpacker games in Bondi.

  • The spinner places his money in the middle of the circle and bets heads. Someone from the circle matches his bet, by placing their money on top of his: tails. The spinner must always bet heads.
  • Around the circle, players yell out their preference: heads or tails, and how much. The amount must be matched by someone betting the opposite side of the coin, and the person betting tails always holds the cash.
  • The boxer – your compere for the evening – yells, “Come in, spinner.” The spinner takes a kip with two coins on it. The coins are always placed tails up, to avoid the spinner cheating with a double-headed forgery.
  • Everyone hoos “Fair go!” and the spinner twists the coins into the air. If a head and tail fall face up, the spinner spins again. If two heads are shown, those who bet on heads take the money from the tails punters. And vice versa.

The seriously spooky Tutes Cottage has been ‘cheered up’ through the centuries with wallpaper of varying degrees of horror.

The bloke next to me keeps betting his entire hand of fake shillings and pounds. Each time his eyes light up with a fervour and he gets a maniacal grin about his face. Someone’s going to be two-upping themselves into a 12-step program in no time at all.

After about an hour of feverish gambling, a real-life rozzer drops in and busts us. He’s come from the local cop shop but has dressed up in Ned Kelly-day uniform nicked from the local museum.

He fills us in a bit more on the legal side of things: two-up has always been against the law, and is only above board in the seven days leading up to Anzac Day (and Anzac Day itself) – and then only if it’s played in an RSL and if it’s honouring the diggers. He brandishes his baton for a few oohs and ahhs. “You’re only allowed to go for the soft bits,” he says. “Just give them a bit of a tap.”

Luckily I am out of baton–shot when I ride off without my helmet.

Keeper? Yes, I’m given my own kip and pennies to take away with me. The whole thing was bloody lovely, actually; I wanted them to adopt me.

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