Terse code is fine as long as you know what all the squiggly bits mean!
outer join shortcut? - dBforums:
*= is a LEFT JOIN
=* is a RIGHT JOIN.
It is a T_SQL extension and was valid up thru SQL 2000 It is no longer available in SQL 2005.
It is not in the ANSI Standard, so if you want your code to run in SQL Server later than 2000, do not use it!