Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zero Sum Loss

April 25th is ANZAC day.

On that day in 1915, under Winston Churchill's plan to open the Black Sea for the Allied forces, the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp landed on a beach on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. In the following 8 months, over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died - without gaining more than a few metres of beach. The ANZAC legend recounts the hardship, bravery and sacrifice of the troops.

ANZAC Day is remembered at dawn with "The Last Post", "Advance Australia Fair", "God Defend New Zealand" and "Reveille". The events at Gallipoli have had a defining impact on the character of the two nations and their respective military traditions.

It's also given them the curious gambling tradition of two-up. This game is legal in pubs* for a few hours on this one-day-a-year. The idea is that WWI ANZAC's (or 'Diggers') played the game and doing so on ANZAC Day is a form of commemoration.

Basically, in two-up, you are betting on a coin-toss. You 'agree' the bet with some person standing in the same circle as yourself. You have a fifty-fifty chance of winning and the house do not take a cut. So overall it's a zero-sum-gain (or loss). I like the idea - best odds in town! Just go on a random walk and as long as you are adequately capitalised, take home as much as you like.

*It is not clear to me that this is strictly true. It's possible that the playing of two-up on ANZAC day is a mass exercise in the flouting of the law. No one cares.

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