Itzik Ben-Gan provides quality information on working with subqueries in SQL Server:
In this plan you see a Nested Loops (Left Semi Join) operator, with a scan of the clustered index on Customers as the outer input and a seek in the index on the customerid column in the Orders as the inner input. You also see an outer reference (correlated parameter) based on the custid column in Customers, and the seek predicate Orders.customerid = Customers.custid.
So why are you getting the plan in Figure 1 and not the one in Figure 2? If you haven’t figured it out yet, look closely at the definitions of both tables—specifically the column names—and at the column names used in the query. You will notice that the Customers table holds customer IDs in a column called custid, and that the Orders table holds customer IDs in a column called customerid. However, the code uses custid in both the outer and inner queries.
Itzik covers three specific scenarios, all of which can cause trouble to database developers who haven’t been burned yet. And sometimes even those who have.