Get a Dell. Customize their base Inspiron E1705 laptop to your needs. It came out to under $1850 with the following upgrades;
* 2.0Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
* 17" UltraSharp Wide Screen UXGA Display
* 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
* 80GB 7200RPM
SATA Hard Drive
* 8x CD/DVD burner
* 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce Go 7900 GS
Processor - That'll let your laptop handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, especially non-gaming apps. Dual Core.
Display - A pricey upgrade, but that choice will give your screen resolution of 1600x1200 (UXGA), higher than most desktop LCD monitors. On a 17", that'll look sweet.
Memory - 2GB for gaming, shouldn't be any argument there. Be careful you don't pick the DDR2-667. While it IS faster, its a bit unnecessary as you probably won't notice the difference.
Hard Drive - Hope 80GB isn't too small for you. The 7200RPM is the crucial thing here, anything that spins slower will feel sluggish. I think there's a 100GB upgrade possible also.
Optical Drive - Thought you'd like to be able to burn DVDs.
Videocard - This is the most important thing here, since this is what will make it a gaming computer. A 7900GS, even the mobile version, is a very nice card. While the price may seem high, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to gaming laptops. If you want anything better than this, you'll probably have to pay more too. Personally, I'd love to have this.
Summary; This is a big laptop. At 17 inches, it's quite
big. 17" is the size of my monitor. It truly is a Desktop Replacement. You could use this as your main computer. I think it turned out quite well actually, as far as laptops go. I wouldn't mind having one of these myself.