Global rice production systems face two opposing challenges: the need to increase production to accommodate the world's growing population while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Adaptations to drainage regimes are one of the most promising options for methane mitigation in rice production. Whereas several studies have focused on mid-season drainage (MD) to mitigate GHG emissions, early-season drainage (ED) varying in timing and duration has not been extensively studied. However, such ED periods could potentially be very effective since initial available C levels (and thereby the potential for methanogenesis) can be very high in paddy systems with rice straw incorporation. This study tested the effectiveness of seven drainage regimes varying in their timing and duration (combinations of ED and MD) to mitigate CH4 and N2O emissions in a 101-day growth chamber experiment. Emissions were considerably reduced by early-season drainage compared to both conventional continuous flooding (CF) and the MD drainage regime. The results suggest that ED + MD drainage may have the potential to reduce CH4 emissions and yield-scaled GWP by 85–90% compared to CF and by 75–77% compared to MD only. A combination of (short or long) ED drainage and one MD drainage episode was found to be the most effective in mitigating CH4 emissions without negatively affecting yield. In particular, compared with CF, the long early-season drainage treatments LE + SM and LE + LM significantly (p < 0.01) decreased yield-scaled GWP by 85% and 87% respectively. This was associated with carbon being stabilised early in the season, thereby reducing available C for methanogenesis. Overall N2O emissions were small and not significantly affected by ED. It is concluded that ED + MD drainage might be an effective low-tech option for small-scale farmers to reduce GHG emissions and save water while maintaining yield.