If individuals don’t like bribery but it’s widespread, then how does bribery happen? The question of how people choose to engage in bribery—and what their choices imply for individuals and for the market for bribes—remains unanswered. In a novel analysis of the logic of first moves—how invitations to exchange bribes are extended and by whom—I reveal that, in a context where bribery is prevalent and the threat of punishment is weak, service-providers hedge their bets: first moves depend on clients’ socioeconomic status. Providers are less likely to extort wealthier clients and more likely to rely on them offering. Indirect asks for bribes are weakly sensitive to client status. The analysis uses unique survey data on bribe flows in the Moroccan healthcare sector, which document solicitation strategies and capture information about givers and takers of bribes. For individuals, status-sensitive first moves create the accommodating exchange partners providers want. For the market, they mute reporting by clients, keeping bribery under principals’ radar and making it sticky. The dynamics of first moves cast doubt on standard interpretations of prevalence rates and suggest analytical strategies to (re) consider existing and new policy approaches to bribery.