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Timer-based mechanisms are often used in several wireless systems to help a given (sink) node select the best helper node among many available nodes. Specifically, a node transmits a packet when its timer expires, and the timer value is a function of its local suitability metric. In practice, the best node gets selected successfully only if no other node's timer expires within a `vulnerability' window after its timer expiry. In this paper, we provide a complete closed-form characterization of the optimal metric-to-timer mapping that maximizes the probability of success for any probability distribution function of the metric. The optimal scheme is scalable, distributed, and much better than the popular inverse metric timer mapping. We also develop an asymptotic characterization of the optimal scheme that is elegant and insightful, and accurate even for a small number of nodes.