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I recently got an Alienware m14x and am very happy with it. I needed a portable gamer and it fit the bill very nicely. Incredible screen, SSD and HD, very fast and pretty. There are always deals and coupons for dell but it still likely will be above $1000.
Biggest considerations of course are mobility and budget. If you can go big, it's generally cheaper. If you don't have to pay a premium for smaller you can generally save some bucks (and get a bigger screen).
If I was buying right now and a 15" was acceptable and I had a $1k budget I would take a hard look at the HP Pavilion dv6-7014nr Entertainment Notebook
It's $1099 right now on sale. Has the latest CPU, Full HD screen, large hardrive, good audio system (BEATS), and a great nvidia graphics GT 650M and even BLU Ray. It actually has better specs than the alienware I bought and for less money.
If you don't like that one, look at www.notebookreview.com in the forums by brand. They also have a "Help me pick a new Laptop" forum.
In any case, I'd really recommend getting at least an nvidia 650M gpu at this point. You can get a more powerful GPU but it will come in a bigger package and likely cost more. The 650 seems like the sweet spot in the smaller laptops. The other big recommendation I have is to get an SSD that is your primary drive (go for at least 128 gb). Boot times are incredible...it really is a game changer. 4-6 GB ram is still OK for gaming. Full HD is nice, but on a smaller screen size things start to get small. Blu Ray is nice I guess, but I don't carry any discs with me when I travel so a non-starter for my use.
Good luck, post with more questions and I will try to answer.
[EDIT: I just noticed you are retired USN. I got my alienware through www.AAFES.com for almost half off! And no tax/free shipping. So give them a look. They sell DELL and other brands. - thanks for your service shipmate!]