Cooperation in wireless networks allows single antenna devices to improve their performance by forming virtual multiple antenna systems. However, performing a distributed and fair cooperation constitutes a major challenge. In this work, we model cooperation in wireless networks through a game theoretical algorithm derived from a novel concept from coalitional game theory. A simple and distributed merge-and-split algorithm is constructed to form coalition groups among single antenna devices and to allow them to maximize their utilities in terms of rate while accounting for the cost of cooperation in terms of power. The proposed algorithm enables the users to self-organize into independent disjoint coalitions and the resulting clustered network structure is characterized through novel stability notions. In addition, we prove the convergence of the algorithm and we investigate how the network structure changes when different fairness criteria are chosen for apportioning the coalition worth among its members. Simulation results show that the proposed algorithm can improve the individual user’s payoff up to 40:42% as well as efficiently cope with the mobility of the distributed users.