In weak institutional settings, autocrats barter political and economic concessions for support to remain in power and extract rents. Instead of viewing the favors’ beneficiaries, i.e. the elites, as an exogenous entity, we allow the king to decide whom to coopt provided the subjects are heterogeneous in the potential support—their strength—they could bring to the regime. While the ruler can select the elites on the basis of their personal characteristics, an alternative strategy consists in introducing some uncertainty in the cooptation process. The latter strategy allows the king to reduce the clients’ cooptation price since in the event of a revolution the likelihood of being included in the future body of elites is lower. We show that weak rulers are more likely to coopt the society’s strongest individuals, while powerful rulers diversify the composition of their clientele. Moreover, when agents value more future discounted outcomes, the king is more likely to randomly coopt subjects.