The prize money, all $20,833.33 of it, appeared in his PayPal account this week, Varney tells CNBC Make It. It puts him among HQ's biggest winners.
"I'm going to be smart [with the money]," Varney says.
"But, the devil on my shoulder is telling me to have some fun."
HQ Trivia streams daily trivia games to users' mobile devices and players try to answer multiple-choice questions for the chance to win a share of a cash prize, which has ranged from $1,000 to $100,000 in past games, with $250,000 being the largest pot ever.
Varney, who made it through 15 trivia questions like "What festive term also describes a hidden feature in a video game?" (an Easter egg) and "What does the Russian word 'glasnost' mean?" (Answer: openness), tells CNBC Make It that he plays HQ Trivia basically every day but had never won a single game before.
"Something like this just doesn't happen to everybody," he says.
Indeed. Especially because Varney says he guessed the answers for 12 of the 15 questions.
His win was pure luck, he says.
"I guessed from [questions] 4 to 15. I mean, complete guesses," he says. "What are the chances?" (Roughly 1 in 177,147, according to Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman.)
What's more, Varney guessed incorrectly on the 11th question (about the tech start-up founder with more Twitter followers than Mark Zuckerberg — it's Box's Aaron Levie). But he had one "extra life." HQ eliminates players as soon as they get a question wrong, unless they have an "extra life," which can be earned by referring friends to download the app and allows you to keep playing.
Then, during the closing seconds of the game, Varney thought he blew it.
The final question hinged on the famous line from the 1987 Patrick Swayze movie "Dirty Dancing," asking what words Swayze's character utters immediately after "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."
Varney chose the phrase, "Come on."
"As soon as I [made the selection], I put my phone down on the dresser and I said, 'I just missed it, that doesn't even make sense,'" says Varney, who was playing the game on his smartphone while laying in bed.
He assumed he'd lost his shot at the $250,000, so he got up to take his dog for a walk to take his mind off the disappointment.